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What You Need to Know About the Authority of Tribal Police to Detain Non-Tribal Members on Reservations

In the case State v. Schmuck 121 Wn.2d 373 (1993), the Washington Supreme Court held that tribal police have the authority to stop and detain non-tribal members who are suspected of violating tribal law, even if the non-Indians are not members of the tribe.

The decision in State v. Schmuck is an important reminder of the inherent authority of tribal governments to enforce their own laws on their reservations. This authority includes the authority to detain non-Indians who are suspected of violating tribal law. However, the detention of non-Indians must be reasonable, and it must be based on probable cause.

What does this mean for non-Indians who visit reservations?

Non-tribal members who visit reservations should be aware that they may be subject to the enforcement of tribal law. If you are stopped by a tribal police officer, you should cooperate with the officer and provide your identification. If you are detained, you should ask the officer why you are being detained and what your rights are. You should also contact an attorney if you are charged with a crime.

Here are some tips for Non-tribal members who visit reservations:

  • Be aware of the tribal laws that apply to the reservation you are visiting.
  • Cooperate with tribal police officers if you are stopped or detained.
  • Ask the officer why you are being detained and what your rights are.
  • Contact an attorney if you are charged with a crime.

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us