State court blocks sex offender law in Indian Country
Three members of the Navajo Nation who live on the reservation and do not work or attend school outside reservation boundaries do not have to register as sex offenders in New Mexico, the state Court of Appeals ruled.

Arnold Atcitty, Michael Billy and Norman Jim were convicted of sex offenses. None registered under the state law, citing their residence in Indian Country and the state's limited jurisdiction on the reservation.

The court agreed with the men, citing the failure of Congress to mention tribes in two sex offender laws passed in 1994 and 1996. "The specific question presented then is whether the two statutes can be deemed an express statement by Congress that state sex offender registration laws shall apply in Indian country," the court wrote. " We hold that they cannot."

The court further noted that Congress included tribes in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Under the law, the Navajo Nation exercised its sovereignty by agreeing to develop its on sex offender registry.

"The foregoing provisions of the Adam Walsh Act demonstrate that Congress recognized that some Indian tribes are willing and able to become participating jurisdictions in the national sex offender registration regime," the court said.

"We conclude that the state's application of [its sex offender law] to defendants was not authorized by federal law and thus infringed on the Navajo Nation’s tribal sovereignty," the court added.

Get the Story:
Court rules against NM in tribal sex offender case, NM (AP 6/5)

NM Court of Appeals Decision:
New Mexico v. Arnold Atcitty, Norman Jim, and Michael Billy (June 4, 2009)

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DOJ extends deadline for Adam Walsh implementation (6/4)