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Laws, Rules and Cases



BIA ICWA Regulations Training and References

UNM – Corrine Wolfe Center for Children and Families Justice  Important Training and Resource Guides

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice Handbook (Children’s Law Center, 2011)

Case Law Update for Juvenile Justice Handbook (Children’s Law Center, 2013)

State of New Mexico vs. David Harrison



The Handbook for Guardians and Conservators – A Practical Guide to the Law  (NM Attorney General, 2007 and the NM Guardianship Association)


Tribal Law & Order Act (TLOA)

Tribal Law & Order Act of 2010 amended many existing laws and created new provisions for the purpose of strengthening law enforcement, prosecutions, convictions and Tribal Court sentencing for crimes that occur in Indian Country.  [The bill was passed as part of another bill; please turn to Title II to see the language of the Act.]

After many hearings over the course of several years, Congress made findings that:

  • the US has obligations to provide for the public safety of Indian Country 
  • Tribal law enforcement officers are often the first responders to crimes on the reservation
  • Tribal justice systems are often the most appropriate institutions for maintaining law and order on the reservation
  • Less than 3,000 Tribal and Federal law enforcement officers patrol more than 56,000,000 acres of Indian country — less than half the law enforcement presence in comparable rural communities
  • The complicated jurisdictional scheme that exists has a significant negative impact on providing public safety, which is increasingly exploited by criminals, and requires a high degree of commitment and cooperation among Tribal, Federal and State officials
  • Domestic and sexual violence against American Indian & Alaska Native women has reached epidemic proportions — 34% will be raped in their lifetimes; 39% are subject to domestic violence
  • Tribes have faced significant increases in domestic violence, burglary, assault, and child abuse as a direct result of increased use of methamphetamine on the reservation

TLOA’s primary objectives are to: 

  • clarify responsibilities and increase coordination and communication among Federal, State and Tribal governments 
  • empower Tribal governments with the authority, resources and information necessary to safely and effectively provide public safety in Indian Country
  • reduce the prevalence of violent crime and combat sexual/domestic violence against Native women
  • prevent drug trafficking and reduce rates of alcohol/drug addiction in Indian Country, and
  • increase/standardize collection of criminal data and data sharing for those responsibility for responding and investigating crimes in Indian Country

TLOA’s provisions address:

  • Prosecutorial coordination by the US Attorney in each district, reporting to Tribal officials when declining to prosecute a case, and appointment of special prosecutors for crimes in Indian Country
  • Additional cross-deputization of officers
  • Enhances Tribal Court sentencing authority up to one-year imprisonment and $5,000 fine for any one offense, which may be combined with other counts for a maximum of 3 years prison and $15,000 fine, but with restrictions:
    • defendants have right to counsel and are represented by a licensed defense attorney 
    • judge presiding has sufficient legal training to preside over criminal cases and is licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction
    • criminal laws, rules of evidence and rules of criminal procedure of the Tribal government are publicly available and 
    • record of the criminal proceeding is made
    • Creates the Indian Law & Order Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of the criminal justice system in Indian Country

The report of the Indian Law & Order Commission was released in November 2013.  The link provides a summary, as well as the whole 250+ page report.  More information about TLOA can be found on the website of the Native American Rights Fund. 



The Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act (SORNA) seeks to ensure greater safety for children and women in particular when sex offenders move across jurisdictions such that law enforcement cannot track them.  States and Tribes are required to comply with the Federal law, although Tribes may delegate their own registration responsibilities to the relevant State.  The rationale behind the new law was —

“Sex offenses are fairly common in the United States and large go unrecognized and underreported.  Studies estimate that about 1 in every 5 girls and 1 in every 7 to 10 boys are sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood, and about 1 in 6 adult women and 1 in 33 adult men experience an attempted or completed sexual assault.  In the wake of several tragic attacks in 2005 in which young children were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered, public and congressional attention became increasingly focused on what was described as the growing epidemic of sexual violence against children.  Attention was also focused on the fact that sex offender registration and notification programs in the US consisted of a combination of 50 individual state registration systems that lacked uniformity and effective operation.  Citing a need to address loopholes and deficiencies in existing registration programs . . . [i]n 2006, Congress passed and the President signed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) . . . to introduce comprehensive standards to make state . . . sex offender registration systems more uniform, and to create and include tribal sex offender registration systems.”  (Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act, GAO Report-13-211)

New Mexico has submitted a plan to the US Dept. of Justice SMART Office, charged with overseeing implementation of the law, but has been deemed to have not substantially complied with SORNA. As a result, 10% of the State’s Burne JAG funding has been removed, as required by law, although it has been redirected to the State to continue its implementation efforts.  For more details on SORNA, please see:

Of the Tribes and Pueblos in the State, 15 of the Pueblos and all 3 Tribes are working toward or have achieved compliance.  For more information about SORNA in Indian Country, please see the SMART Office website at:

Additional information about SORNA was provided during a series of Regional Meetings conducted by the Consortium in 2010.  



S 47 – Violence Against Women Act  2013 (reauthorization) including provisions for Tribal Jurisdiction over Non-Indian perpetratros of Domestic Violence

VAWA 2013 – Tribal Jurisdiction Over Non-Indian Perpetrators of Domestic Violence




Adam Walsh Act of 2006 (SORNA provisions)

KIDS Act of 2008 – (SORNA provisions)

Final Supplemental SORNA Guidelines (Fed. Register 01.11.2011)

National SORNA Guidelines (Final 06.2008)


Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010


NM SORNA (CH.29, 11A-nmsa 1978)

Second District Form

(Notice of Requirement to Register)

NM State Caselaw

State of New Mexico vs. Atcity

State of New Mexico vs. Brothers

State of New Mexico vs. Moore

State of New Mexcio vs. Myers