The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) was passed in 2010. One of the highlights of the TLOA is the passage of legislation that now allows for federally-recognized Indian Tribes across the country to prosecute felony offenses that occur in Indian Country by Native Americans. Prior to the TLOA's passage, Indian tribes were only allowed to prosecute misdemeanor cases with penalties of up to one year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $5,000. TLOA allows tribes to enhance penalties for criminal offenses for a maximum of up to three years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. In addition, the TLOA allows the sentence for up to three offenses to be run consecutively, for a maximum of nine years in prison.
The maximum penalty under the Sault Tribe's current criminal code is a one-year misdemeanor. For example, under the current code, the charge of murder is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in jail. All forms of sexual offenses are misdemeanors under the current Tribal Code. If the board of directors votes to change the Tribal Code and allow for serious offenses to be penalized by up to three years, more serious offenses that occur in Indian Country can be prosecuted at the felony level.
At the official Presidential signing of the Act, Lisa Iyotte, a victim of rape, explained that because the Act had not passed at the time she was raped, the most her offender could be charged with in the Tribal Court was a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor offense for a rapist hardly seems like any justice to victims of rape.
Once the TLOA passed, Sault Tribe took steps to consider revising the Tribal Code to be consistent with it; more specifically, to consider raising the penalties for more serious offenses. Members of Sault Tribe's TLOA team have been writing proposed language for the tribe's civil and criminal code. The team consists of members from Law Enforcement, Tribal Court, Prosecutor's Office, Advocacy Resource Center, Board of Directors and Probation Department.
The team will be holding a series of meetings to invite public comments to the proposed changes to the Tribe's criminal and civil code. The meetings will be held on the following dates and times in conjunction with the elder meals:
June 13, 2014, at 12:30 p.m. at the Manistique Tribal Center, Manistique, Mich.
June 16, 2014, at 12:30 p.m. at the McCann School, St. Ignace, Mich.
June 20, 2013, at 12:30 p.m. at the Nokomis/Mishomis Center, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
A copy of the proposed changes to the Code will be posted on the Tribe's website at www.saulttribe.com/government/tribal-code. In addition a hard copy will be available at each meeting. The Elder subcommittee representatives will also be able to take your written comments or questions so a member of the TLOA team can respond to you.