National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault

Tribal Law and Order Act



The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (“TLOA”) was signed in to law by President Obama on July 29, 2010. TLOA makes some very important changes to the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in Indian Country.  At the center of the Act is the recognition of the urgent need for improved inter-jurisdictional collaboration between federal and tribal criminal justice and corrections agencies, increased data collection, and expanded sentencing capabilities for tribal courts.


The TLOA’s primary statutory purposes are to:




  • Clarify the responsibilities of federal, tribal, state, and local authorities with respect to crimes committed in Indian Country.
  • Empower tribal governments with the authority, funding, resources, and information necessary to safely and effectively provide public safety in tribal communities.
  • Reduce the prevalence of violent crime in tribal communities and combat sexual and domestic violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.
۞ Reduce the prevalence of violent crime in tribal communities and combat sexual and domestic violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.
  • Prevent drug trafficking and reduce rates of alcohol and drug addiction in Indian Country.
  • Increase and standardize the collection of criminal data and the sharing of criminal history information among federal, state, tribal, and local officials responsible for responding to and investigating crimes in Indian Country.
  • Under TLOA, all United States Attorneys’ Offices must designate a tribal liaison with statutorily specified duties. These duties include coordinating prosecution between tribes and the federal government, developing multi-disciplinary teams, consulting with tribes about any backlog in prosecutions, and providing technical assistance and training.
  • TLOA also contains a new mandate that whenever a federal criminal investigation is terminated or a United States Attorneys’ Office declines prosecution, the federal criminal justice professionals “shall coordinate” and share information with tribal criminal justice officials. Annual reports addressing federal declinations of prosecution and terminated federal criminal investigations must also be submitted to Congress annually under this law. Tribes may also utilize Special Assistant United States Attorneys (appointed by the United States Attorneys in consultation with the tribes) to prosecute Indian Country crimes “as necessary to improve the administration of justice.” 



  • TLOA requires the development of a long-term plan to address juvenile and adult corrections issues and statutorily confirms tribal law enforcement officers’ access to federal criminal databases such as NCIC. Tribal courts may request that the Federal Bureau of Prisons house some convicted defendants at no cost to the tribe.  The law also establishes an Indian Law and Order Commission to address criminal justice issues in Indian Country.
  • Perhaps the most significant changes resulting from the Act are the provisions for federal concurrent criminal jurisdiction in Public Law 280 jurisdictions at the request of tribes and the enhanced sentencing capabilities of tribal court judges.  Previously, the maximum sentence allowed in tribal courts under the Indian Civil Rights Act was a sentence of up to one year of incarceration and a $5,000 fine. 
  • TLOA now allows for enhanced sentencing of up to 3 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine provided that the defendant was represented by law trained and barred defense counsel, the tribal court judge in the case is law trained and barred, the proceedings are recorded, and due process is afforded to the defendant at every stage in the proceedings.


Statutes - 1

Other Resources - 6


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25 U.S.C. § 281 The Tribal Law and Order Act














Tribal Law and Order Act - The Tribal Law & Order Act strongly emphasizes the importance of decreasing violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. The Act enhances tribes' authority to prosecute and punish criminals; expands efforts to recruit, train, and keep Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Tribal police officers; and provides BIA and Tribal police officers with greater access to criminal information sharing databases.



Compendium of Tribal Crime Data, 2011


National Roundtabl












The Tribal Law and Order Act requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to establish and implement a tribal data collection system and to support tribal participation in national records and information systems. This is the first BJS report on the status of tribal data collection activities as required by the act. It describes BJS's activities between July 2010 and June 2011 to improve tribal law enforcement reporting to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) and BJS's direct collaboration with tribal criminal justice systems to collect data about tribal court systems.



COPS Office Report to Congress as required by
Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010


COPS Office Report












This report, prepared by the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) initiative as a result of the requirements of the Tribal Law and Order Act, discusses the distribution of $400 million in federal grant money to tribal law enforcement programs.


National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault, a project by the Southwest Center for Law and Policy © 2013

This project was supported by  Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessary represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. All rights reserved. | Privacy policy