Indian Commission seeks legal opinions |

Indian Commission seeks legal opinions

Geoff dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The Nevada Indian Commission has asked Attorney General Brian Sandoval to resolve two ongoing legal issues involving tribal rights.

The Yerington tribe requested help after the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles ended the practice of allowing tribal vehicles exempt status for registration and license plates.

Commission Executive Director Sherrada James told Sandoval Friday that 10 tribes in the state have 261 vehicles — 186 of which now have exempt plates. She said there is apparently no legal provision in place which allows tribes to have those plates.

She said the practice saves tribal officials money each year, just as it does local governments, which have exempt plates for police, fire and other governmental vehicles. If the Attorney General’s Office rules that DMV is right, she said they will have to ask the next Legislature to change state law.

The second issue arose when a tribal police officer in Elko tried to ticket a volunteer fireman for speeding. The fireman told the officer he couldn’t ticket a non-Indian driving through the reservation on a county public road because the officer had no jurisdiction.

The Elko Sheriff’s Office and Elko District Attorney agreed and issued orders to local courts to not accept citations issued by tribal police because they aren’t considered POST-certified peace officers.

James told Sandoval the practice in many communities has been to recognize the citations issued for such minor infractions by tribal officers and prosecute them in municipal or justice court.

“This isn’t over the jurisdiction over 12 feet of pavement,” said Commission Chairman Richard Harjo. “It’s over public safety.”

Sandoval said he couldn’t comment on the issues, which he said are being thoroughly reviewed by his deputies.