OLYMPIA — People who commit crimes on tribal lands would not be able to escape justice by fleeing into Washington state lands, under legislation passed on a 45-4 vote by the Senate today.

SB 6146 would authorize Washington state law enforcement officers to enforce warrants issued by the 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington state and empower them to transport people to tribal lands for prosecution.

“This law will keep our communities safer while protecting the constitutional rights of people accused of crimes,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee and prime sponsor of the bill. “It is crucial that, when law enforcement officers have a new duty to undertake, they are given clear and consistent statutory guidance, and that’s what this legislation does.”

The bill was the result of collaboration between tribal and state law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys.

“This bill closes a jurisdictional gap allowing crimes to be committed on Indian reservations and then flight off-reservation where no legal process exists for state arrest and return of fugitives to the tribes,” said Judge Ron Whitener, retired Chief Judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court and a Squaxin Island Tribal member. “It also provides due process protections for fugitives by only allowing arrest and return to tribal custody if the tribe meets Constitutional requirements of the federal Tribal Law and Order Act.”

For tribes not yet meeting the federal requirements, the bill creates an extradition process requiring state court review of extradition prior to returning a fugitive to a tribe.

“The fact is that the tribes have been arresting and returning state fugitives under our treaty duties for 170 years, with no concerning incidents,” Whitener said. “We have complete confidence that our state law enforcement counterparts will do as fine a job under this bill, increasing safety and peace in our all of our communities.”

“I thank Sen. Dhingra for convening a process that brought together all 29 tribes with Washington state law enforcement and prosecutors to work collaboratively on solutions through which the State can recognize tribal warrants. This legislation will help to keep all Washingtonians safe around the state and on tribal lands,” said Chairman Steve Edwards of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“The best way to achieve public safety and fair, effective judicial systems is through continued and expanded cooperation between tribal and state justice systems. By creating a reliable process for tribal warrants to be honored off-reservation, SB 6146 closes a major public safety gap in state law. We applaud the Senate for passing this important legislation, and look forward to continued cooperation with our state partners as we strive together to protect the right of every person to work, raise a family, and engage in community life in a safe and healthy environment,” said Chair Teri Gobin of the Tulalip Tribes.

“Thank you to Rep. Debra Lekanoff, who sponsored the House companion, for her hard work on this policy,” said Dhingra.

SB 6146 now moves to the House for consideration.