Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sex Offender Law Not Applicable in Indian Country : New Mexico's Sex Offender Law Not Applicable in Indian Country.

SantaFe— New Mexico’s sex offender registration law does not apply to Native Americans living within the boundaries of tribal lands, the State Court of Appeals has ruled in a decision that reaffirms the state’s limited authority in Indian country.

The unanimous ruling came last week in consolidated cases involving three Navajos who were arrested in San Juan County in northwestern New Mexico outside the Navajo reservation. They were charged with failing to register as sex offenders under a state law.

The three men lived on tribal land and did not work or go to school off the reservation. They had each been convicted under federal law of sex offenses against minors.

The arrests occurred before April 2006, when the Navajo Nation began requiring convicted sex offenders who work, live or attend school on the reservation to register with tribal police.

Under state law, sex offenders who live in New Mexico must register with their local county sheriff. Registration is also required for sex offenders who are residents of another state but work or attend school in New Mexico. A 2006 federal law revised requirements for sex offender registration and dealt with questions of tribal and state authority over registration laws.

The court noted the 2006 federal law in deciding the cases of the Navajo men. Earlier federal laws on sex offender registration did not explicitly override tribal sovereignty, the court said.