Public Law 280

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Public Law 280[a] (Pub. L. 83–280, August 15, 1953, codified as 18 U.S.C. § 1162, 28 U.S.C. § 1360, and 25 U.S.C. §§ 13211326 hereinafter P.L. 280), is a federal law of the United States establishing "a method whereby States may assume jurisdiction over reservation Indians," as stated in McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Commission. 411 U.S. 164, 177 (1973).

The Act mandated a transfer of federal law enforcement authority within certain tribal nations to state governments in six states: California, Minnesota (except the Red Lake Nation and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), Nebraska, Oregon (except the Warm Springs Reservation), Wisconsin (except later the Menominee Indian Reservation) and, upon its statehood, Alaska. There are currently 6 mandatory P.L. 280 states which are the listed above. Mandatory states did not get the option to refuse the jurisdiction granted by P.L. 280 whereas the ten additional states listed below, had the option of adopting this policy. These states include, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Washington. Not all of these states adopted full jurisdiction within their state. The federal government offered little assistance to either the states or tribes in the transfer of jurisdiction. Arizona, Florida, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah are the only optional states that have not receded any of their P.L. 280 jurisdiction. Optional P.L. 280 states did not need consent from tribes in order to enact full or partial jurisdiction of this law.[1]

The Act added to a complex matrix of jurisdictional conflict that defined tribal governance at the end of the 20th century. In various states, local police, tribal police, BIA police, and the FBI are the arms of a law enforcement system that enforces laws of tribes, states and the federal government. The Act also added that tribe cannot put non-natives on trial, even when crime occurs on reservation land.[2]

Under the Act, states, local sheriffs and state law enforcement agencies take tribal members to state courts for prosecution in cases arising from criminal matters within reservation boundaries. But most tribal governments and pueblos have also adopted their own codes, and administer court systems to adjudicate violations of the code.

In states where the Act has not been applied, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police respond to major crimes on reservations or pueblos. The FBI joins in investigations of the most serious criminal matters such as murders or kidnappings. In those states, when allegations against tribal members arise from crimes on a reservation, the United States Attorney cites violations of the United States Code in a United States district court. Tribal and pueblo police also enforce local codes in "non-PL 280" states.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Act itself is named: AN ACT To confer jurisdiction on the States of California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin, with respect to criminal offenses and civil causes of action committed or arising on Indian reservations within such States, and for other purposes.


  1. ^ "Public Law 280 and Law Enforcement in Indian Country—Research Priorities" (PDF). OJP. December 2005. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  2. ^ "General Rules Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country". Retrieved November 21, 2019.

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