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Because proceedings in compliance with ICRA sufficiently ensure the reliability of tribal-court convictions, the use of those convictions in a federal prosecution does not violate a defendant’s due process right. 15–420 _________________ UNITED STATES, PETITIONER delivered the opinion of the Court. This case presents the question whether those convictions, though uncounseled, rank as predicate offenses within the compass of §117(a). Bryant’s tribal-court convictions did not violate the Sixth Amendment when obtained, and they retain their validity when invoked in a §117(a) prosecution. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 46% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. See Tribal Law and Policy Inst., Implementation Chart: VAWA Enhanced Jurisdiction and TLOA Enhanced Sentencing, online at Therefore, the use of those convictions in a federal prosecution does not violate a defendant’s right to due process. * * * Because Bryant’s tribal-court convictions occurred in proceedings that complied with ICRA and were therefore valid when entered, use of those convictions as predicate offenses in a §117(a) prosecution does not violate the Constitution. §1151 to encompass all land within any Indian reservation under federal jurisdiction, all dependent Indian communities, and all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished. 3 Among the additional safeguards attending longer sentences is the unqualified right of an indigent defendant to appointed counsel.
In response to the high incidence of domestic violence against Native American women, Congress, in 2005, enacted 18 U. That proceeding generates no Sixth Amendment defect where none previously existed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, M. We accordingly reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion 1 “Indian country” is defined in 18 U. 2 Until 1986, ICRA permitted sentences of imprisonment up to only six months.
In short, when §117(a) was before Congress, Indian perpetrators of domestic violence “escape[d] felony charges until they seriously injure[d] or kill[ed] someone.” 151 Cong. On one occasion, Bryant hit his live-in girlfriend on the head with a beer bottle and attempted to strangle her.
The question here presented: Is it permissible to use uncounseled tribal-court convictions—obtained in full compliance with ICRA—to establish the prior-crimes predicate of §117(a)? 1627, 1636–1637 (1998); Tribal Law and Policy Inst., S. Because of his short prison terms, Bryant acknowledges, the prior tribal-court proceedings complied with ICRA, and his convictions were therefore valid when entered. Indian tribal court proceedings” for domestic assault and similar crimes). When convicted of these offenses, Bryant was indigent and was not appointed counsel. , imprisoned for a term of not more than 5 years, or both . This case raises the question whether §117(a)’s inclusion of tribal-court convictions as predicate offenses is compatible with the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (ICRA), which governs tribal-court proceedings, accords a range of procedural safeguards to tribal-court defendants “similar, but not identical, to those contained in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment,” , 436 U. For most of his convictions, he was sentenced to terms of imprisonment not exceeding one year’s duration. Bryant later stated that he had assaulted this victim on three separate occasions during the two months they dated. And by treating all tribes as possessing an identical quantum of sovereignty, the Court’s precedents have made it all but impossible to understand the ultimate source of each tribe’s sovereignty and whether it endures. Congress’ purported plenary power over Indian tribes rests on even shakier foundations. with In-dian Tribes,” not the Senate’s role in approving treaties, nor anything else—gives Congress such sweeping authority. Indeed, the Court created this new power because it was unable to find an enumerated power justifying the federal Major Crimes Act, which for the first time punished crimes committed by Indians against Indians on Indian land. The Court asserted: “The power of the General Government over these remnants of a race once powerful, now weak and diminished in numbers, is necessary to their protection . Until the Court ceases treating all Indian tribes as an undifferentiated mass, our case law will remain bedeviled by amorphous and ahistorical assumptions about the scope of tribal sovereignty. .” Having two prior tribal-court convictions for domestic violence crimes is thus a predicate of the new offense. In particular, ICRA provides indigent defendants with a right to appointed counsel only for sentences exceeding one year. When convicted, Bryant was indigent and was not appointed counsel. Three months later, he assaulted another woman with whom he was then living, waking her by yelling that he could not find his truck keys and then choking her until she almost lost consciousness. 6 Section 117(a) has since been amended to include as qualifying predicate offenses, in addition to intimate-partner crimes, “assault, sexual abuse, [and] serious violent felony” offenses committed “against a child of or in the care of the person committing the domestic assault.” 18 U. Start with the notion that the Sixth Amendment generally prohibits the government from using a prior, uncounseled conviction obtained in violation of the right to counsel as a predicate for a new offense in a new proceeding. On the one hand, the only reason why tribal courts had the power to convict Bryant in proceedings where he had no right to counsel is that such prosecutions are a function of a tribe’s core sovereignty. In light of the tribes’ distinct histories, it strains credulity to assume that all tribes necessarily retained the sovereign prerogative of prosecuting their own members. It is time that the Court reconsider these precedents.