Washington SCT (On Reconsideration) Holds 5-4 that Tribal Law Enforcement Authority Stops at Rez Boundaries

The majority opinion is here, and the two dissenting opinions are here and here. The majority holds (reversing itself from opinions in 2009 and 2010) that a criminal suspect (here a reckless driver) is utterly free and clear from tribal jurisdiction once the suspect leaves the reservation. Tribal police cannot even hold the suspect until state officials arrive.

One of the dissents raises an interesting point. This outcome strongly encourages anyone — even tribal members — from making a crazy, reckless beeline for the reservation boundary.

Our first posting on this case (with links to briefs) is here. Here are the previous opinions:

166_Wash.2d_953

170_Wash.2d_209

First it was 9-0, then 6-3, and now 5-4 the other way. What happened?

Washington Supreme Court Holds that Tribal Police have “Inherent Authority” to Engage in Fresh Pursuit Off the Reservation

Here’s the opinion in State v. Eriksen. An excerpt:

A Lummi Nation tribal police officer witnessed a motorist on
the reservation driving at night with high beams and drifting across the center divider.
Did the officer have authority to continue pursuing this vehicle beyond the
reservation’s borders and then detain the non-Indian driver until authorities with
jurisdiction to arrest for DUI1 arrived? This is an issue of first impression. We hold
tribal officers have inherent sovereign authority and statutory authority to continue
“fresh pursuit” of motorists who break traffic laws on the reservation and then drive
off the reservation. Therefore we affirm the trial court.

A Lummi Nation tribal police officer witnessed a motorist on the reservation driving at night with high beams and drifting across the center divider. Did the officer have authority to continue pursuing this vehicle beyond the reservation’s borders and then detain the non-Indian driver until authorities with jurisdiction to arrest for DUI1 arrived? This is an issue of first impression. We hold tribal officers have inherent sovereign authority and statutory authority to continue “fresh pursuit” of motorists who break traffic laws on the reservation and then drive off the reservation. Therefore we affirm the trial court.

All the briefs are here.