9th Circuit allows multiple tribal sentences for multiple offenses

Tribes can sentence offenders to consecutive sentences for multiple crimes, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

Beatrice Miranda, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, was sentenced to 910 days in jail after being convicted of eight offenses involving crimes against a minor. She said the punishment violated the Indian Civil Rights Act, which limits tribal court sentences to one year.

But the 9th Circuit said the prohibition only applies to "any one offense." Since Miranda was convicted of multiple charges, her sentence did not violate 25 U.S.C. Section 1302(7) of ICRA.

"Section 1302(7)’s one-year sentencing cap for 'any one offense' means that a tribal court may impose up to a one-year sentence for each violation of a criminal law," Judge Janis L. Sammartino wrote for the majority.

In July 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act. The law modifies Section 1302(7) to allow tribal court sentences of up to three years for "any 1 offense."

However, tribes that impose longer sentences must provide defendants with certain constitutional guarantees and their courts must adhere to certain standards. The law authorizes a maximum tribal court sentence of nine years.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Miranda v. Anchando.

9th Circuit Decision:
Miranda v. Anchando (August 17, 2011)

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