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UNITED STATES v. LARA - 541 U.S. 193 (2004)



No. 03-107. Argued January 21, 2004--Decided April 19, 2004

After respondent Lara, an Indian who is not a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe (Tribe), ignored the Tribe's order excluding him from its reservation, he struck one of the federal officers arresting him. He pleaded guilty in Tribal Court to the crime of violence to a policeman. The Federal Government then charged him with the federal crime of assaulting a federal officer. Lara claimed that, because key elements of that crime mirrored elements of his tribal crime, he was protected by the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Government countered that the Clause does not bar successive prosecutions by separate sovereigns, and that this "dual sovereignty" doctrine determined the outcome. The Government noted that this Court has held that a tribe acts as a separate sovereign in prosecuting its own members, United States v. Wheeler, 435 U. S. 313, 318, 322-323; that, after this Court ruled that a tribe lacks sovereign authority to prosecute nonmember Indians, see Duro v. Reina, 495 U. S. 676, 679, Congress specifically authorized such prosecutions; and that, because this statute enlarges the tribes' self-government powers to include "the inherent power of Indian tribes ... to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all Indians," 25 U. S. C. §1301(2), the Tribe here had exercised its own tribal authority, not delegated federal authority. Accepting this argument, the Magistrate Judge rejected Lara's double jeopardy claim. The en banc Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that the "dual sovereignty" doctrine did not apply because the Tribal Court was exercising a federal prosecutorial power, and, thus, the Double Jeopardy Clause barred the second prosecution.

Held: Because the Tribe acted in its capacity as a sovereign authority, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prohibit the Federal Government from proceeding with the present prosecution for a discrete federal offense. Pp. 4-16.

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