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A Better Partnership
October 25, 2012

COA Opinion: MI courts have jurisdiction over victimless offenses committed by non-Indians on Indian lands

In People v Collins, the court of appeals held that Michigan courts have jurisdiction over 'victimless' offenses committed by non-Indians on Indian lands located within the state. In 2009, defendant Collins was captured on video surveillance selling Ritalin to another person on Indian lands at Island Resort and Casino. Collins' case was consolidated on appeal with another defendant, who was charged with selling marijuana at an Indian casino. Defense counsel for both defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Michigan state courts lacked jurisdiction, and the circuit court agreed. In reversing the circuit court's decision, the court of appeals cited numerous United States Supreme Court and state and lower federal court decisions, finding that based on those precedents, Michigan courts had jurisdiction over the criminal prosecution of a non-Indian who committed a 'victimless' crime on Indian lands.

Under federal law, the United States regarding punishment do not apply to offenses committed by one Indian against another, or to offenses committed on Indian lands if the offender was punished by tribal law. However, where a crime is committed on Indian land and involves only non-Indians, under long-standing precedent, the state courts have exclusive jurisdiction. The court also noted that even though a compact between the Indian tribes and state of Michigan provides that Indian casinos are not regulated by the state, because the crimes involved here were criminal offenses and not regulatory in nature, that provision in the compact was inapplicable in this case. Thus, in line with the precedent of the United States Supreme Court and numerous state and lower federal courts, the court of appeals held that 'state courts in Michigan have jurisdiction in regard to a criminal prosecution in which a defendant is a non-Indian, the offense is committed on Indian lands or in Indian country, and the offense is either victimless or the victim is not an Indian.'

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