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Justice Dept. Cements Position on Concurrent Federal Criminal Jurisdiction in “Optional” P.L. 280 States

January 19, 2017


For decades, conflicting judicial decisions and Department of Justice statements have led to uncertainty about whether the United States has concurrent jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1152 and 1153 over Indian-country crimes that fall within an “optional P.L. 280” State’s jurisdiction under Section 7 of Public Law No. 83-280, 67 Stat. 588, 590 (1953). The Acting Solicitor General, after reviewing prior positions of the Department and the underlying legal materials, has now concluded that the litigating position of the United States is that the United States does have this concurrent criminal jurisdiction. Your Offices therefore can bring prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1152 and 1153, in accordance with 28 C.F.R. § 50.25(a)(2), notwithstanding any contrary view about optional P.L. 280 jurisdiction that the United States or the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) may have previously expressed.

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