Chapter 7

The Federal, Indian, and Military Justice Systems: Victims' Rights and Assistance

This chapter contains three separate sections that address the federal, tribal, and military justice systems. Each section discusses the relevant laws, guidelines, regulations, directives and assistance available to crime victims throughout each justice system. The systems' interrelationships are also highlighted, as are the significant providers of victim services within each justice system.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the following concepts:

1. The unique aspects of each justice system and the interrelationships among the systems on the national, state and local levels.

2. The major laws, guidelines, regulations and directives governing each justice system with respect to victims' rights and services.

3. The individuals designated to implement victims' rights within each system and examples of effective victim outreach and assistance.

4. The role of federal agencies, including the Office for Victims of Crime, in implementing and supporting victims' rights and assistance within each system.

5. A broad understanding of the comprehensive services now available to crime victims throughout these three systems.

Section I: The Federal Criminal Justice System

Statistical Overview

An Introduction to the
Federal Criminal Justice System

Federal and non-federal courts co-exist in separate, yet highly related judicial systems. The genesis of this arrangement is found in early notions of federalism as contained in the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, the United States is a Federal Republic of generally autonomous states. Article X of the Constitution specifies that "[T]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Thus, the powers not expressly given to the United States government are retained by the state's and the people. In terms of the criminal justice system, there are two primary areas where federal jurisdiction is given to federal courts. That is:

(1) Through the enactment of statutes creating federal criminal law by an act of Congress signed into law by the President. Primarily these are contained in the federal criminal code codified at 18 United States Code; or

(2) When a so called "federal question" arises in a legal case. The most common of these would involve issues deriving from the violation of rights accorded through the Bill of Rights (e.g., freedom of speech, freedom of association, etc.), or other federal civil rights issues.

When these specific federal laws are in question, or when generally conceived federally derived rights are at issue, the federal courts clearly have jurisdiction to hear the matter. In terms of federal criminal violations, the U.S. Attorneys in 94 districts are authorized to represent the interests of the federal government, that is, to prosecute defendants. The same is true for civil cases involving federal matters.

Therefore, the federal courts are of limited jurisdiction and can only handle federal matters. That is why these courts account for only about five percent of all criminal matters in the United States, with about 95 percent of criminal cases handled at the state level. Although federal courts are limited in this way, the power of the federal judiciary should not be doubted. When dealing with federal issues, federal courts can effectively overrule lower court decisions through what is referred to as "federal preemption." Thus, federal courts can impose their will on the state's in legitimate federal matters.

Major Federal Laws Affecting Federal Crime Victims

Four significant laws affecting federal victims of crime have been enacted in the past 14 years:

The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982

The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (VWPA) was enacted "to enhance and protect the necessary role of crime victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process; to ensure that the federal government does all that is possible within the limits of available resources to assist victims and witnesses of crime without infringing on the constitutional rights of the defendants; and to provide a model for legislation for state and local governments" (Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, 1983).

The VWPA was considered landmark legislation in 1982 because, for the first time, rights for victims of federal crimes were established, including:

Procedures for responding to the needs of crime victims in the federal criminal justice system, including referral services, information and notification services, consultation services, restitution, and victim impact statements were further delineated in Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance issued by the Attorney General in 1984.

The Victims of Crime Act of 1984

Two years following the passage of the VWPA, Congress enacted the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) to provide funding for victim assistance, victim compensation, and training and technical assistance for victim service providers across the nation. VOCA's innovative funding mechanism relies on fines, penalties and bond forfeitures from convicted federal offenders -- not taxpayers -- to generate an annual Crime Victims Fund. Congress directed the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to distribute the funding to states and U.S. Territories, to assist in expanding compensation and assistance to crime victims nationwide.

While the majority of VOCA funding is distributed to states and territories through formula grants, a small portion of the fund is available for federal crime victims, as well as for training and technical assistance in the federal arena and at the national level.

OVC has utilized this funding for significant federal crime victim assistance including:

One very important provision in VOCA is the requirement that in order for state compensation programs to receive federal Crime Victims Fund awards, victims of federal crimes must be eligible for state compensation benefits. Following the enactment of VOCA, many state legislatures amended their state laws to include federal crime victims as eligible claimants. Today, victims of federal crimes in 50 states are eligible to file compensation claims to the state compensation program where the crime occurred.

The Crime Control Act of 1990

The Crime Control Act of 1990 contained a wealth of new legislation and amendments to the existing federal criminal code affecting the treatment of crime victims, including children.

Provisions of the Crime Control Act created a new framework for comprehensive victim assistance on the federal level by specifying new, or clarifying previous, responsibilities of federal officials with respect to implementing victims' rights. Federal officials covered under the Crime Control Act include officials of the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime.

Federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights

The enactment of a Federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights was historic and paralleled legislative activity in the states. Section 502 of the Act mandated that federal officials "shall make their best efforts to see that victims of crime are accorded the rights described in subsection (b). . .

(1) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.

(2) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.

(3) The right to be notified of court proceedings.

(4) The right to be present at all court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial.

(5) The right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.

(6) The right to restitution.

(7) The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender" (42 U.S.C. Section 10606(b).

The Attorney General revised the 1983 Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance and re- issued them to "provide definitive guidance on implementation of the 1990 Act as well as continued guidance on the protection of witnesses under the VWPA." (Guidelines, 1991) In addition, many of the approximately 75 federal law enforcement agencies that operate within federal agencies, (e.g. Inspectors General, Postal Inspectors, Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement, etc), took steps to issue guidelines for the treatment of victims and witnesses.

Critical Changes

While many outstanding Victim-Witness Programs had been created in United States Attorneys' offices across the country by 1990, and some federal agencies had responded to implement the Victim and Witness Protection Act (e.g. the Federal Bureau of Prisons' victim notification and restitution programs), the fact that Congress created strong new language "demonstrates the continuing national concern for the innocent victims of all crimes and reflects the view that the needs and interests of victims and witnesses had not received appropriate consideration in the Federal criminal justice system under the Victim and Witness Protection Act" (Guidelines, 1991).

The 1983 Attorney General Guidelines, stemming from the passage of the VWPA, required that services to victims and witnesses be provided "whenever possible" and "within limits of available resources." With the passage of the Crime Control Act in 1990, victims' rights and services on the federal level gained new status and it was clearly stated in law, and in the revised 1991 Attorney General Guidelines, that victims' rights and services "shall be provided."

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

Four years later, Congress enacted comprehensive crime legislation entitled the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Crime Act.) In addition to the establishment of new victims' rights, and the passage of the historic Violence Against Women Act contained within, the Crime Act encouraged the federal government to form partnerships with state and local communities. The specific rights and services contained in the 1994 Crime Act include:

The 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance

As a result of the passage of the 1994 Crime Act, the Attorney General revised and re-issued new comprehensive guidelines in 1995 to establish procedures for the federal criminal justice system for implementing victim rights and assistance as enacted under federal law. In issuing the 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, Attorney General Janet Reno stated:

"Crime is a shattering experience that affects the lives of millions of Americans. It can destroy a person's sense of safety and security. Of paramount importance to crime victims and witnesses is their treatment by criminal justice personnel, who should care about their suffering, enforce their rights and protections, offer support to help them heal, and hold the criminal accountable for the harm caused.

For too long, the rights and needs of crime victims and witnesses were overlooked by the criminal justice system. In recent years, however, new laws have been enacted at both the federal and state level to remedy this injustice.

I am pleased to issue these new Guidelines, which incorporate the important rights and protections for federal victims and witnesses contained in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, as well as provisions in prior victims' statutes. They also establish procedures for implementation of these laws by federal investigative, prosecutorial, and correctional personnel.
The Guidelines reflect my strong belief that victims should play a central role in the criminal justice system and my commitment that all components of the United States Department of Justice shall respond to them with compassion, fairness, and respect, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law." (Guidelines, 1995, Foreword)

In combining the requirements of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982, the Crime Control Act of 1990, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Guidelines provide "definitive guidance on implementation of the 1990 and 1994 Acts as well as continued guidance on the protection of witnesses under the VWPA; and shall serve as a primary resource for Department of Justice (investigative, prosecutorial, and correctional) agencies in the treatment and protection of victims and witnesses of federal crimes under these Acts." In addition, the Guidelines supersede previous Attorney General Guidelines, specifically, the 1983 and 1991 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance.

Federal Crime Victims' Rights and Services -- Significant Elements of the 1995 Attorney General Guidelines

As in the 1991 Guidelines, the 1995 Guidelines state that under 42 U.S.C. Section 10606(a), officers and employees of the Department of Justice and other departments and agencies of the United States engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime shall make their best efforts to see that victims of crime are accorded the rights described under federal law. However, the new Guidelines increased the accountability of federal criminal justice officials. In the 1991 Guidelines the Attorney General recommended that the annual performance appraisals of federal law enforcement officers, investigators, prosecutors, and corrections officers include compliance with the Guidelines. The 1995 Guidelines direct that performance appraisals and reports of best efforts include information on compliance with the Guidelines.

Officials Responsible for Providing Rights and Services
to Victims and Witnesses

The Guidelines provide explicit designations of the individuals responsible for "identifying the victims and performing the services due victims and witnesses under federal law" and require that in each of the investigating field offices, correctional facilities, U.S. Attorney's office and the Justice Department Litigation division that "there must be one individual who shall be designated to specifically carry out victim-witness services."

Individuals charged with providing victims rights and services are defined according to the following stages in the criminal justice process:

The sharing of information and cooperation among the various federal agencies, as well as interacting with tribal, state and local agencies providing victim services, are also required by the Guidelines.

Victim and Witness Services

The Guidelines delineate a range of services that should be provided to victims and witnesses at each stage of the federal criminal justice process. Moreover, to further insure implementation, specific responsibility is assigned to federal agencies and officials to carry out these services. The services listed in the Guidelines include the following:

In addition, the Guidelines address other forms of assistance that shall be extended to all victims and witnesses to the fullest extent feasible, including: victim privacy for child victims and victims of sexual assault, employer creditor intervention, parking, translator services, and related services.

Sentencing in Federal Courts and the Use of Victim Impact Statements

In a landmark report sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime entitled A Victim's Right to Speak: A Nation's Responsibility to Listen, The National Victim Center in 1994 addressed victim impact in the federal system. The Report stated the following:

Selection of an appropriate sentence is one of the most important decisions made in the criminal justice system. The primary vehicle used to assist the sentencing court in fulfilling this responsibility is the presentence investigation report. In November 1987, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 became effective and radically changed the philosophical model for sentencing offenders in Federal courts. Congress relinquished an indeterminate model of sentencing and adopted a determinate model based upon national guidelines. Changes in the content and format of the presentence report were necessary to accommodate the new sentencing process.

As part of the Crime Control Act of 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission to serve as an independent body of the judicial branch. The Commission was assigned responsibility for establishing sentencing policies and practices for the Federal criminal justice system in compliance with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Commission was further directed to produce guidelines that would avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities while retaining enough flexibility to permit individualized sentencing when called for by mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

However, if the court is to accurately determine mitigating or aggravating circumstances of each individual case, it must have access to all information pertinent to the case, and this information must include a careful review of victim impact. Historically, this information has been presented through the use of a presentence investigation report.

In the United States Federal Court system, when a defendant is apprehended and charged and is either found guilty or enters a plea of guilty, a presentence investigation report is ordered by the court prior to imposing a sentence. Under Federal Rule 32(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 18 U.S.C. Section 3552, the defendant cannot waive the presentence investigation with the exception of violations where penalties include the death penalty. Rule 32(c)(1) also delegates the responsibility of preparing the presentence investigative report to U.S. probation officers.

Traditionally, this report assists the Court to understand the offender's background and to offer explanations as to the circumstances surrounding the offense(s) and the offender's involvement. As required by Rule 32(c)(1), the presentence report shall contain information on the history and characteristics of the defendant, including any prior criminal record; financial condition; educational attainment; family history and marital history; and any circumstances affecting the defendant's behavior (mitigating and aggravating conditions) which may be helpful in imposing sentence or the correctional treatment of the defendant, and any other information to be collected as directed by the sentencing authority.

The federal criminal justice system took the lead in setting a legal precedent for the inclusion of victim impact information in sentencing with the passage of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982. The Act allows for the submission of victim impact information at the time of sentencing, amending the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Rule 32(c)(1)) to require U.S. Probation officials to include the following victim impact information in their pre-sentence investigative reports to the court:

This created the right for federal victims to provide information on the impact of the crime in the sentencing phase of the federal justice system -- commonly referred to as victim impact statements. The Attorney General Guidelines address this right further by requiring the following:

Finally, consistent with available resources and their other responsibilities, federal prosecutors shall advocate the interests of victims, including child victims, at the time of sentencing.

Today, victim impact statements are widely used in criminal cases, including capital cases. Repeated challenges to the constitutionality of the use of victim impact statements in capital cases was resolved when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of victim impact evidence submitted during the sentencing phase in capital cases Payne v. Tennessee in 1991.


The Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (part of the Crime Control Act) provides that victims of federal crime have a "right to restitution." It also requires that if a court does not order restitution, or orders only partial restitution, the court must state on the record the reasons why restitution was not, or only partially ordered. The 1990 Act also extended the court's ability to order restitution to victims of an offense involving a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity -- i.e. all victims harmed by crimes of fraud. This extends to not only the victims of charged crimes, but to all the victims named in the indictment, even when the defendant was not charged on all accounts.

In addition, the 1990 Act extended the right to restitution to all victims in plea agreements:

"The court may also order restitution in any criminal case to the extent agreed to by the parties in a plea agreement."
The Guidelines underscore this right by stating that when plea negotiations occur, prosecutors should attempt to obtain the defendant's consent to an order of restitution for all victims of the offense, not just for the victims involved in the courts to which he or she pleaded guilty."

Departing from the previous trend to permit the court to have discretion in ordering restitution, the 1994 Crime Act states very clearly that convictions for four types of crimes must include mandatory restitution as part of an offender's punishment:

The Act also lists expenses for which victim restitution is required:

In addition, the 1994 Crime Act extended and strengthened the right to restitution for other federal crime victims by adding requirements for reimbursement of victims, as well for the enforcement of restitution orders against delinquent defendants.

Enforcement of Restitution

To ensure enforcement of restitution orders, the Crime Act and 1995 Attorney General Guidelines specify that U.S. Attorneys must enforce the restitution order "by all available means."

The Crime Act provided several mechanisms to enforce restitution payments including the following:

Finally, the Crime Act reinforced restitution payments by amending the federal Bankruptcy Code to prevent defendants who owe restitution from discharging their liability for payments by filing bankruptcy. The Act states that a debt for restitution included as a sentence, on the debtor's conviction of a crime, would not be discharged in a Chapter 13 filing. The Act also added a new provision in the Bankruptcy Code that addresses drunk driving debts, stating that such debts are not dischargeable under Chapter 17, 11 and 12 proceedings.

Again, the 1995 Guidelines underscored restitution rights by stating:

"Federal prosecutors shall advocate fully the rights of victims, including child victims, on the issue of restitution."

New Legislation: The Victims' Justice Act of 1995

Title I of the Victims' Justice Act of 1995 amends the federal criminal code to require judges to order restitution for victims of the following crimes of violence:

In addition, procedures for issuing and enforcing restitution orders were significantly expanded under the Act. Full implementation of these new provisions will bring new importance to restitution in federal criminal proceedings.

Coordination and Direct Services Role at the Federal Level

One significant result of the Victim and Witness Protections Act of 1982 was the creation of the position of Victim-Witness Coordinator in United States Attorneys offices to ensure compliance with the VWPA, as well as federal crime victim-related laws enacted since 1982. Today, every office of the United States Attorney across the country is authorized to employ a Victim-Witness Coordinator.

While one of the roles of the Victim-Witness Coordinator is to implement federal law regarding crime victims rights and services, the position can be structured in many different ways, depending on the size and configuration of the federal district and the needs of the United States Attorney. As the title implies, Victim-Witness Coordinators generally oversee and coordinate the victim assistance program and services in the United States Attorneys Offices, and work to establish procedures for victim and witness assistance across the entire office. Coordinators work with federal prosecutors and administrative staff to implement a wide range of victims' rights and services.

Victim-Witness Coordinators have developed and implemented a wide range of programs and services to assist federal victims. While these services vary according to the needs of the District -- such as an innovative program to assist victims of white collar crime now being developed in the Northern District of California, to bank robbery victim outreach programs in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the District of Oregon -- certain procedures tend to be standard across the nation.

For example, Federal Victim-Witness Coordinators have developed policies and procedures for:

A Nationwide Network of Federal Victim Assistance and Interagency Coordination

Victim-Witness Coordinators, located in the 94 U.S. Attorneys' offices across the nation, have built a nationwide network of support through which they rely on each other for information, advice and assistance. In addition, Victim-Witness Coordinators are linked by computer so that they may better communicate as a true network of service providers. This has proven valuable in providing expertise and experience often necessary for complex cases. Many cases cross jurisdictional lines and require out-of-state resources to assist victims and to effectively prosecute the case. In addition, the networking activities of the Coordinators are helpful in providing services and support to victims who reside in rural-remote locations.

An important aspect of the Victim-Witness Coordinator's job is to coordinate victim and witness service efforts with other federal, as well as state and local law enforcement officials. In most jurisdictions, Coordinators work closely with state-level and local victim service providers and criminal justice officials, which serves to "fill gaps" in the delivery of services. Activities include, but are not limited to: cross-jurisdictional training, participating in statewide victim assistance coalitions, making victims service referrals and participating in commemorative observances, such as National Crime Victims' Rights Week and National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week. Two examples of the role of Victim-Witness Coordinators are the following:

The Office for Victims of Crime Response to Federal Crime Victims

The Federal Crime Victims Division is one of three divisions located within the Office for Victims of Crime. The Federal Crime Victims Division has responsibility for:

Federal Crime Victim Assistance Fund

The Federal Crime Victims Division oversees the Federal Crime Victim Assistance Fund created by OVC and funded by VOCA to meet the immediate needs of federal victims of crime when victim services are otherwise not available. Victim-Witness Coordinators in 93 U.S. Attorney's Offices can contact OVC to receive assistance from the fund. The Emergency assistance funds have helped federal crime victims in a variety of ways, including;

In the spring of 1996, OVC provided $200,000 in funding to assist victims and survivors of the tragic bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City to cover the costs of transportation and lodging incurred by the need to travel to Denver because of the change in federal venue for the trial.

Federal Criminal Justice Personnel Training Efforts

The Federal Crime Victims Division supports numerous training programs for federal officials and personnel on victim assistance, support and advocacy. One of the longest-standing interagency agreement in this arena is between OVC and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Since 1986, OVC has supported victim assistance training for all federal law enforcement officers attending the Center's training program. OVC also has an interagency agreement with the FBI to provide training on victims' rights and assistance for agents.

In addition, OVC has provided training and technical assistance to over 70 federal agencies regarding the development of victim-witness policy and procedures, training investigators, prosecutors, and Victim-Witness Coordinators.

Section II: The Tribal Justice System and Native American Victims

Statistical Overview

The above statistics were excerpted from Criminal Justice In Indian Country: A Focus on New Options, United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, 1994. (Training materials from a conference held in Quantico, VA, November 7-8, 1994.)

Critical Jurisdictional Issues

"It is important to recognize that [tribal authority] flows from the legal premise that Indian tribes retain a certain "nationhood" status, which pre-dates the establishment of the United States, and includes inherent powers of internal self-government." (Homer, 1993)

A complex history of laws, customs, treaties, and traditions has resulted in a potentially confusing array of jurisdictional issues regarding native Americans and the U.S. criminal justice system. As has been discussed in Chapter 5, jurisdiction is a legal concept that provides courts with the lawful authority to exercise their judicial powers over individuals, certain subject matters, and specific geographic areas. Jurisdictional authorizations are statutory or constitutionally based, and may overlap or even conflict. This is particularly true in matters involving native Americans. For example, a significant determinant of jurisdiction involves the Indian or non-Indian status of the victim and the offender, in addition to what crimes were committed and where they occurred.

A key concept in understanding these jurisdictional issues is the notion that Indian tribes are considered "domestic dependent nations" and, therefore, they retain important aspects of self-government. These dependent nations are afforded this respect from the Federal and State governments due to the fact that Indian tribal governance pre-dates the United States itself. Thus, tribes are sovereign nations in their own rights and, despite their domestic dependency, they retain powers of government that cannot be "extinguished" by an act of Congress. Through numerous court cases on the state and federal levels for over 160 years the independence of tribes has been upheld. However, it is a complicated relationship, described as the United States serving as a "fiduciary in a trust relationship with the tribes which, at a minimum, entails the duty to provide those benefits and services specified by treaty, executive order or statute." (See Holmer, 1993.)

These jurisdictional determinations are of great importance to victims and service providers. The court, and relevant body of law, with jurisdictional authority over a particular case will significantly influence the level and types of resources available for assisting victims, determine the victims ability to participate in the case proceedings, and govern the conduct of the trial and sentencing of a convicted defendant. An overview of important jurisdictional issues and relevant federal victim assistance initiatives follows below.

Definition of Tribal Land/Indian Country

One important aspect of jurisdiction involves geographical areas, such as territories where Native Americans reside that are officially recognized as "reservations." Tribal land is generally referred to as "Indian Country." The definition of Indian Country, provided in 18 U.S.C. Section 1151, is expansive and includes all reservations whether established by treaty, executive order or act of Congress; all "traditional" dependent Indian communities, and all allotments where an Indian title has not been extinguished, including land in the former Indian Territory or elsewhere.

Specifically this includes the following:

Federal Jurisdiction

Two federal laws specifically provide for federal criminal jurisdiction over Native American matters. The first is generally known as the Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. Section 1153). This act enumerates 14 specific, major offenses that may be prosecuted by the federal government when the offender is an Indian. The second is called the Indian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. Section 1152), sometimes called the General Crimes Act. This Act provides for jurisdiction over matters where the offender is non-Indian and the victim is Indian, or the reverse, that are not covered in the Major Crimes Act. An exception to this is when the offender is an Indian who has been punished by a tribal court or the offense is subject to other limitations (i.e. treaty restrictions).

Essentially, the criminal laws of the United States generally apply to Indian Country (18 U.S.C. Section 1152), subject to certain limitations. Section 1152 does "not extend to offenses committed by one Indian against the person or property of another Indian, nor to any Indian committing any offense in the Indian country who has been punished by the laws of the tribe, or...[when] the exclusive jurisdiction over such offenses is or may be secured to the Indian tribes respectively." However, 18 U.S.C. Section 1153, in turn, reserves federal criminal jurisdiction for specific "major" crimes (e.g., murder, manslaughter, kidnaping, incest, etc.) committed by Native Americans.

An additional conditions that allows for the application of federal jurisdiction involves the Assimilative Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. Section 13). Where there is no substantive federal offense available, the relevant law of the state may apply by being "assimilated" into the federal code. The chart that appears below will be of great assistance in understanding this array of jurisdictional issues.

Indian Status Defined

A detailed discussion of who may utilize the status of Indian for jurisdictional purposes is beyond the scope of this chapter. It is important to note that the determination of Indian status, or who may claim to be an Indian, is not defined in 18 U.S.C. However, about 150 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court first attempted to address this very sensitive area concerning the definition of who qualifies as an Indian. In the decision United States v. Rogers, 45 U.S. 567 (1846) a two pronged test was established that required:

This test, called the "Rogers Test" was refined in a 1988 decision in the District Court for the District of South Dakota (St. Cloud v. V.S., 702 F. Supp. 1456 (D.S.D. 1988) that outlined several additional factors to consider including:

The importance of this is apparent when one notes that there are instances of defendants' convictions being reversed due to issues regarding Indian status or lacking thereof.

Jurisdictional Chart

The following chart is intended to provide clarification on the complicated federal, state and tribal jurisdictional issues:

Federal Jurisdiction
IndianIndianMajor Crimes Statute (18 U.S.C. Section 1153) only applies. Fourteen specific major offenses may be prosecuted by federal government. (Otherwise Tribal court presides.)
IndianNon-IndianMajor Crime Statute applies if one of 14 offenses occurs. Other crimes may allow federal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Section 1152 (Indian Country Crimes Act) or if an other substantive federal offense is involved or action may be brought under 18 U.S.C. Section 13, Assimilative Crimes Act, where a substantive state offense may be incorporated. (State law may apply if no federal offense applies.)
Non-IndianIndianIndian Country Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. Section 1152) applies. Again, other substantive federal offenses or assimilated state offenses may be prosecuted federally.
Non-IndianNon-Indian State jurisdiction only. No federal jurisdiction.

A Note Regarding State Jurisdiction

Most of the discussion above deals primarily with federal jurisdiction. The issue of state jurisdiction must also be considered briefly and presents different complications. As Homer (1993) notes, "[t]he relationship between tribes and states is difficult to characterize, and varies from region to region." (p.5.) For example, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to oversee the affairs of Indian nations (See Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, U.S. Constitution). However, jurisdiction over criminal matters where the victim and the offender are non-Indians and the crime is committed in Indian Country is exclusively with the state where the reservation is located. Alternatively, the state's are without jurisdiction over criminal matters committed by Native Americans, absent an act of Congress granting such state jurisdiction. This statutory scheme is further complicated by recent efforts by states to return certain aspects of their jurisdiction to the federal government, and by the fact that this is often handled differently among several tribes within one state. Again, as Homer (1993, p.7) points out, "[because there are so many variables, it is recommended that periodically each district review its jurisdictional analysis of Indian Country on a tribe by tribe basis."

Tribal Courts and Jurisdiction

Tribal courts have jurisdiction over matters involving Indians who commit crimes in Indian Country. Many times this jurisdiction is concurrent with federal jurisdiction, such as cases of child sexual abuse. Generally, these concurrent jurisdiction offenses may see defendant's being tried in two court systems (tribal and federal) without violating "double jeopardy" prohibitions due to these being two separate sovereigns. Tribal courts do not have authority to handle matters where the offender is not an Indian.

Much of the general jurisdictional discussion above draws from the Criminal Justice In Indian Country: A Focus on New Options, United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, 1994. (Training materials from a conference held in Quantico, VA, November 7-8, 1994.) training materials, and in particular, the 1993 chapter entitled Jurisdictional Issues Related to Indian Country Crimes: A Brief Introduction prepared by Elizabeth Lohah Homer of the U.S. Department of Justice's Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section. Those interested in a more detailed treatment-of this area are referred to this original text. Also, the National Indian Justice Center, 7 Fourth Street, Suite 46, Petaluma, CA 94952 can provide materials on both legal and programmatic issues discussed throughout this section.

Direct Native American Victim Assistance Services

Since 1987, the Office for Victims of Crime has focused VOCA discretionary funds on improving services and outreach for victims of crime in Indian country. OVC has supported a wide range of programs including:

Victim Assistance in Indian Country Program (VAIC)

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has provided direct assistance in Indian Country through the VAIC grant program which commenced in 1988. This program provides states with funding to expand or create "on-reservation" victim assistance programs in Indian Country where victim services have been limited or non-existent. As of 1996, OVC has awarded over six million dollars in grants to tribal victim assistance under this program.

In 1995, OVC funded 29 programs in the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The services provided by these programs represent the full range of victim assistance, including: crisis intervention, emergency shelter, mental health counseling, and court advocacy.

In order to respond to tribal victims in federal cases who often feel geographically isolated and have little access to communication with the federal system, OVC encourages cooperation and coordination in working relationships between the victim assistance coordinators in Native American communities and the U.S. Attorneys' Victim-Witness Coordinators. For example, tribal victim assistance providers often accompany victims to federal court proceedings while federal victim-witness coordinators provide information on case progress and status to tribal coordinators. (OVC Fact Sheet, Project in Indian Country)

Victim Compensation

Native American crime victims qualify for state victim compensation awards as a result of VOCA requiring that victims of federal crimes are to be treated the same as victims of state criminal violations. However, as late as 1988, few native American crime victims were aware of this potential financial assistance. Thus, OVC worked with the National Association of Crime Victims Compensation Boards to initiate comprehensive public awareness efforts to inform victims on Indian Reservations about this important program within each state. OVC funded the development of a video entitled, Financial Assistance for Victims of Crime (see Resource list at the end of this section), to further educate and inform native Americans and tribal justice system professionals about crime victim compensation and the procedures for submitting a claim.

Additionally, in 1990, OVC added a new condition for state eligibility to receive a crime victims compensation grant by requiring states to undertake special efforts to inform on-reservation victims about the State's compensation program and their eligibility to apply.

Improving the Investigation, Prosecution and Handling of Child Abuse Cases: The Children's Justice Act

In 1986, amendments to the Victims of Crime Act, the Children's Justice Act was created to provide funding for the nationwide improvement of the handling of child abuse cases by the criminal justice system. The Children's Justice Act for native Americans has served as an important source of federal funding to assist tribes with the investigation, prosecution and management of child abuse cases.

Over the years, OVC has awarded grants directly to tribes to create systematic improvements for addressing child abuse -- not only improving investigations and prosecutions -- but lessening the trauma associated with children and families involved in these complex cases. Since 1989, OVC has funded 29 tribal programs. The programs have enhanced the following services and procedures:

(OVC Fact Sheet, Children's Justice Act Grant Program for Native Americans)

Training and Technical Assistance

In addition, OVC has sponsored numerous training forums on Native American victim issues. Each year OVC supports the Indian Nations Conference which brings together victim service providers, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, health and mental health providers to confront issues of victimization and victim services in Indian Country. OVC has also provided funding for "district specific" training, bringing together federal law enforcement and victim assistance personnel with their counterparts in Indian Country to improve communication and case handling. This approach has met with great success. For example, the Northern and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma signed Memoranda of Understanding with 23 Tribal leaders that define federal, Tribal, and state responsibility for investigating reports of child abuse, prosecuting cases, and protecting children. (OVC Fact Sheet, Projects in Indian Country)

In addition, OVC provides extensive training each year through its Trainer's Bureau for grantees receiving Children's Justice Act (CJA) for Native Americans funding. The Trainer's Bureau provides training on all aspects of victimization, while the CJA training program focuses on multidiciplinary approaches to child abuse and increasing advocacy efforts for child abuse victims system wide.

Section III: The Military Justice System and Victims
of Crime

At the federal level, there is heightened interest in the rights and needs of crime victims on military installations. Through collaboration with the Office for Victims of Crime, the Department of Defense (DoD) has provided training and technical assistance to improve victims' rights and services when military personnel are involved in crimes. The emergence of the recent DoD Directive and Instruction, Memoranda of Understanding, and model programs have contributed to greatly needed attention focused on the rights and needs of victims throughout the military criminal justice system.

DoD Policy Relevant to Victim and Witness Assistance

In 1994, the DoD responded to victims of crime by issuing two major initiatives:

Together, the Directive and Instruction provide overall policy guidance and specific procedures to be followed for victim and witness assistance in all sectors of the military.

The 1994 Directive reissued military policies and procedures concerning crime victims and witnesses that had been required since the 1982 enactment of the federal Victim and Witness Protection Act. The new Directive applies to all branches of the United States military. It effectively updated Department of Defense policies and assigned responsibilities for providing assistance to victims and witnesses of crimes committed in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Chapter 47 of Title 10, U.S. Code). In addition, the Directive formally established a Victim and Witness Assistance Council.

DoD Instruction, 1030.2, added additional components to the military's response to crime victims by providing the procedural guidance for the Directive.

Victim and Witness Assistance Councils

Under Directive 1030.1, it is a responsibility of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to, among other responsibilities, create an Interdisciplinary Victim and Witness Assistance Council to provide a forum for the exchange of information and the consideration of victim and witness policies, and provide a liaison with the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

Instruction 1030.2, further defines the role of the interdisciplinary council: "to coordinate the development of policy recommendations and the implementation of the Victims' Advocate Program within their respective programs on victims and witness assistance, family advocacy, and equal opportunity."

The DoD's Victim and Witness Assistance Council has helped develop and define its broad mission in the implementation of policies and procedures to respond to crime victims and witnesses. Significantly, a Senior Program Specialist within the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime joined the Council as the only non-military member. As a result, the Council has had the benefit of access to, and information about, victims rights and services developed on the federal, state and local levels. OVC's input has greatly assisted DoD in defining and expanding services and training and technical assistance opportunities on victims issues. For example, OVC and DoD have entered into an interagency agreement to provide training to multidiciplinary teams in military installations around the world.

In addition, DoD Instruction 1030.2 states that, to the extent practicable, a Victim and Witness Assistance Council should be established at each significant military installation to ensure that an interdisciplinary approach is followed by victim and witness service providers. These providers may include the following:

Victims' Rights and Services within the United States Military

The DoD Directive and Instruction on victim and witness assistance cover the entire military justice process -- from investigation through prosecution and confinement. They apply to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the following military departments:

To increase sensitivity to victims of crime and to provide services for victims, the DoD Directives state the following:

"It is Department of Defense policy that: The necessary role of crime victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process should be enhanced and protected.

The DoD components shall do all that is possible within limits of available resources to assist victims and witnesses of crime, in accordance with the requirements listed in DoD Instruction 1030.2, without infringing on the constitutional rights of an accused. Particular attention should be paid to victims of serious, violent crime, including child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual misconduct."

The Directives serve as the definitive guidance on standardizing victim and witness assistance services throughout the military. Each of the services -- Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines -- has now developed and issued regulations to implement the DoD directives.

Victims' Rights and Services Within the Military

DoD Directive 1030.1 directs all agencies and services of the military involved in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crimes that victims are to be accorded the following rights (Note: These rights are essentially the rights articulated for federal crime victims as enacted by federal law, and previously stated):

Jurisdictional Conditions

In terms of jurisdictional conditions applicable to Federal lands, there are four commonly used categories of legislative authority:

1. Exclusive federal jurisdiction: The federal government has all of the legislative authority within the land area in question. Normally, the state reserves the right to serve civil or criminal process on the federal area.

2. Concurrent jurisdiction: In granting to the United States authority otherwise tantamount to exclusive legislative jurisdiction over an area, the state reserves the right to exercise the same authority concurrently with the United States.

3. Partial jurisdiction: The federal government has some legislative authority, but the state reserves the right to exercise other authority beyond service of process. Neither the federal government nor the state has complete authority over the land in question.

4. Proprietary interest: The federal government has some degree of ownership or right to use of land within the state, but does not have legislative authority except as authorized by the constitution.

In addition, under the terms of the Federal Assimilative Crimes Act, state law may become part of the federal code and is then applied in federal prosecutions as it would have been if the case had been tried at the local level. As stated in Section 13 of Title 18 of the United States Code:

"The Federal Assimilative Crimes Act is an adoption by Congress of state criminal laws for areas of exclusive or concurrent federal jurisdiction, provided federal criminal law, including the UCMJ, has not defined an applicable offense for the misconduct committed. The Act applies to state laws validly existing at the time of the offense without regard to when these laws were enacted, whether before or after passage of the Act, and whether before or after acquisition of the land where the offense was committed. For example, if a person committed an act on a military installation in the United States at a certain location over which the United States had either exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction, and it was not an offense specifically defined by federal law (including the UCMJ), that person could be punished for that act by a court-martial if it was a violation of a non-capital offense under the law of the state wherein the military installation is located, and applies it as though it were federal law..."

Military Court-martials

Military Services only have the authority to court martial active duty military service members. They do not have the authority to order restitution or to utilize victim impact statements as part of a court-martial. However, the DoD Directive addresses restitution and victim impact statements in the following way:

"Court-martial convening authorities and clemency and parole boards shall consider making restitution to the victim a condition of granting pretrial agreements, reduced sentences, clemency, and parole. They may consider victim impact statements on the impact of crime." (emphasis added)

Victim Services in the Military

At the DoD level, as well as in each branch of Military Services, there is an office that provides oversight for the implementation of victims' rights and services. Each branch of the military has issued regulations to further implement victim/witness assistance within their services. You may contact the DoD, or the representatives from the individual military services at the following locations:

Department of Defense -- Headquarters
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-4000
Phone: (703) 697-3387
Fax: (703) 693-6708

Pentagon Room 2D423
Washington, D.C. 20301
Phone: (703) 695-2193
Fax: (703) 693-5086

Air Force
112 Luke Avenue, Room 343
Bolling Air Force Base
Washington, D.C. 20332-8000
Phone: (202) 767-1539
Fax: (202) 404-8755

Marine Corps
CMC, HQMC Judge Advocate Division (JAM)
2 Navy Annex
Washington, D.C. 20380-0001
Phone: (703) 614-4250
Fax: (703) 695-5111

Office of Legal Counsel
PERS 0611
Washington, D.C. 20370-5006
Phone: (703) 614-2225
Fax: (703) 693-7265

Family Advocacy Program

In addition, each branch of Services has a Family Advocacy Program. The Program is designed to prevent and treat child and spouse abuse in accordance with DoD Directive 6400.1, Family Advocacy Program. Each branch of Service maintains a central registry of reports of alleged child and spouse abuse. Allegations of child sexual abuse that occur in out-of-home care settings, such as in child care centers, family day care homes, schools, or recreation programs, must be reported within 72 hours to the Service Family Advocacy Program for inclusion in the central registry and to the DoD Assistant Secretary (Force Management Policy) or to his or her designee. Criminal prosecution is the goal of intervention in cases involving child sexual abuse in an out-of-home care setting.
If more than one child is a victim of sexual abuse in an out-of-home care setting, the branch of Service may convene a multidiciplinary technical assistance team for the installation at the request of the installation commander, or the DoD Office of Family Policy may convene a multidiciplinary team of specially trained personnel from the four Services to provide technical assistance. Technical assistance may include law enforcement investigations, forensic medical examinations, forensic mental health examinations, and victim assistance to the child and family. The primary recipients of technical assistance are the Family Advocacy Program Manager, the investigators of the installation law enforcement agency, and the physicians and mental health professionals at the military treatment facility or those who provide services under contract.

Services are available to the following:

Another example of a military victim service program is the Navy's Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Program (SAVIP). Established in 1994, the program is described by the Navy as unique in the services and as a " comprehensive, standardized, victim-sensitive system response to sexual assault Navy-wide." Specifically, the program provides sexual assault awareness and preventive education programs; victim advocacy and intervention services; and collects accurate data on sexual assault in the Navy. There were 28 SAVIP Coordinators working through 26 Family Service Centers by April of 1994.

Collaborative Efforts Between the Military and Local Victim Services

The Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida and the City of Jacksonville Victim Services Division Adult/Adolescent Sexual Assault Center have created a Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Program through a Memorandum of Understanding. According to the Memorandum, "this program is intended to provide emotional support and guidance to victims of sexual assault during administrative, medical, investigative and legal procedures, and to ensure that they understand and can anticipate these procedures. In addition, the Victim Advocate Program informs victims on the availability of appropriate follow-up care."

In Jacksonville, the Navy and the Jacksonville Victim Services Division collaborate on training, service provision, information and referral for victims of sexual assault whose cases fall under the jurisdiction of the Navy.
In addition to establishing a position for a sexual assault victim intervention program coordinator, designated by the installation commander, as well as a victim intervention program coordination committee, specific duties relevant to program implementation are detailed in the Memorandum of Understanding. The Naval Installation, in accordance with the Memorandum, will:

The responsibilities of the AASAP, as detailed in the Memorandum of Understanding, are to:

This Memorandum of Understanding is an excellent example of a collaborative effort between the military and local victim services that can serve to increase reporting of crimes, and access to services, and enhance the quality of assistance available to victims of sexual assault whose cases fall under military jurisdiction.


This chapter has discussed three separate federal systems of victims' rights and services. While there are certain similar aspects of each system (for example, victims whose cases are prosecuted at the federal level, stemming from an offense committed at the tribal or military level, are accorded the same victims' rights under the federal laws discussed in the beginning of this chapter), it should be clear that each justice system is separate and unique.

Where possible, issues of overlapping jurisdiction, or interagency cooperative efforts, funding and support have been highlighted. A common characteristic among the three justice systems is that the 1990s has been the decade of significant progress in each of the systems. New laws, regulations, directives, programs, and personnel have been incorporated in the federal, tribal and military justice systems. Victims of crime falling under each of these systems now truly have an opportunity to exercise their rights, to be informed, and to be treated with dignity and compassion.

Resources for Native American Victims

The Office for Victims of Crime has supported the development of a number of useful publications and videos to assist Native American crime victims. Specifically these resources are:

Note: Contact the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center (OVCRC) at (800) 627-6872 for information about the availability of these resources.

Self Examination Chapter 7

The Federal, Indian and Military Justice
Systems: Victims' Rights and Assistance

1) What four major federal laws have been enacted to provided rights, services and funding for federal crime victims?

2) Describe the role of the Federal Victim-Witness Coordinator and give an example of the type of interagency assistance Coordinators can provide.

3) Jurisdictional issues are extremely complicated when responding to Native American crime victims. Briefly describe the relationship between federal, tribal and state law in this area (use Jurisdictional Chart for this answer.)

4) The Military justice system has responded to crime victims through what mechanisms? What branches of Service(s) do victims' rights now apply?

5) In your opinion, what has been the most significant development on the national level that has contributed to the comprehensive system of rights and services now available to victims of federal crimes?


Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1996, May). Felony sentences in the United States, 1992, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Children's Justice Act fact sheet for Native Americans. )1995). Washington, DC: Office for Victims of Crime.

Criminal justice in Indian country: A focus on new options. (1994). Quantico, VA: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division.

Federal Victim-Witness Coordinators as a Resource. (1996). Washington, DC: Office for Victims of Crime.

Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee/Victim-Witness Assistance Program Manual. (1990). A guide for LECC/victim-witness coordinators. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.

Projects in Indian Country. (1995). OVC Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: Office for Victims of Crime, Federal Crime Victims Division.

Shriner, Sue. (1992, February). Victim programs to serve Native Americans. OVC Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice.

Victim and witness assistance. (1994, November 23). Department of Defense Directive, 1030.1.

Victim and witness procedures. (1994, December 23). Department of Defense Instruction, 1030.2.

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