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Court: Tribal police can pursue beyond reservation

Thu., Sept. 17, 2009, 11:22 a.m.

OLYMPIA — The Washington state Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that tribal police can pursue non-Indian motorists outside a reservation if they see a traffic infraction on tribal lands.

Thursday’s ruling says that under state law, tribal police can go beyond their jurisdiction if they’re in a “fresh pursuit,” or if there’s an immediate threat to life or property.

The case stems from an August 2005 incident, when a Lummi Nation officer pursued a suspected drunken driver but didn’t stop her until they were outside reservation boundaries.

The tribal officer held Loretta Eriksen until a Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy arrived to arrest her. Eriksen was later convicted of drunken driving, but challenged whether the tribal officer made a legal stop.

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