State v. Quintana, 25,107.

Docket NºNo. 25,107.
Citation178 P.3d 823, 2008 NMCA 025
Case DateJune 15, 2006
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico
178 P.3d 823
2008 NMCA 025
STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellant,
James B. QUINTANA, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 25,107.
Court of Appeals of New Mexico.
June 15, 2006.
Certiorari Granted, No. 29,909, August 25, 2006.

[178 P.3d 824]

Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General, Margaret McLean, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellant.

John Bigelow, Chief Public Defender, Laurel A. Knowles, Assistant Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellee.


VIGIL, Judge.

{1} The district court concluded that the traffic accident giving rise to the crimes alleged in the indictment occurred in Indian country, and dismissed the indictment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The State appeals, arguing that the accident site was not in Indian country. We agree with the State and reverse the order dismissing the indictment.


{2} The following facts are undisputed. Defendant is an enrolled member of Cochiti Pueblo who was involved in a motor vehicle accident on State Road 16 in 1999. State Road 16 is built on land belonging to the federal government and administered by the United States Forest Service as part of the Santa Fe National Forest, In 1983, the United States Forest Service granted an easement to the New Mexico Highway Department to build State Road 16. State Road 16 itself is the boundary between two pueblos. Santo Domingo Pueblo is on one side of State Road 16, and Cochiti Pueblo is on the other. The site of the accident is not within the boundaries of either pueblo, and the accident did not occur on land held in trust for a pueblo. The actual accident site was .45 tenths of a mile southeast of the southern boundary of the Cochiti Pueblo Grant. As a result of the accident, Defendant was indicted in district court on three counts of homicide by vehicle by reckless driving and one count of great bodily injury by vehicle by reckless driving. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

{3} The district court held an evidentiary hearing, and the evidence presented included maps of State Road 16 and the surrounding lands and photographs of the accident site. The district court found the "[c]ommunity of reference to be Cochiti Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, and Pena Blanca." It also found that the "[c]ommunity of reference is a federal set aside for dependent Indian people and is under federal superintendence." It then dismissed the charges against Defendant for lack of jurisdiction in district court, and the State appealed.

{4} This Court reversed in a memorandum opinion and instructed the district court to apply the two-prong test set forth in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520, 527, 118 S.Ct. 948, 140 L.Ed.2d 30 (1998) (hereinafter Venetie), that was adopted by our Supreme Court in State v. Frank, 2002-NMSC-026, ¶ 23, 132 N.M. 544, 52 P.3d 404. After both parties submitted supplemental pleadings, the district court held a second evidentiary hearing, and the evidence presented again included maps and photographs of the areas surrounding the accident site. The district court again found that the portion of State Road 16 where the accident occurred is Indian country. The court found that the site qualifies as a dependent Indian community because: (1) it was set aside by the federal government for use of the Indians of Cochiti Pueblo; and (2) it is under federal superintendence. This appeal followed.

Standard of Review

{5} We review whether the law was correctly applied to the facts, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Id. ¶ 10. We defer to the district court's findings of fact if they are supported by substantial evidence. Id.; see State v. Dick, 127 N.M. 382, 384, 981 P.2d 796, 798(1999). As to matters of law, we conduct a de novo review. Id. In this case, "we review de novo the district court's application

178 P.3d 825

of Venetie to the facts." Frank, 2002-NMSC-026, ¶ 10, 132 N.M. 544, 52 P.3d 404.


{6} In general, "a state does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed by an Indian in Indian Country." Id. ¶ 12; see State v. Romero, 2004-NMCA-012, ¶ 8, 135 N.M. 53, 84 P.3d 670 ("Under federal law, the United States has exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute certain serious offenses committed by Indians within Indian country."), cert. granted, 2004-NMCERT-001, 135 N.M. 161, 85 P.3d 803. The parties do not dispute that Defendant is an enrolled member of Cochiti Pueblo and that the victims were all Native Americans. Further, there is no dispute that the offenses charged constitute serious offenses for federal jurisdictional purposes. See 18 U.S.C. § 1153(a) (2000). The issue on appeal is whether the district court correctly determined that the accident occurred within "Indian country." See Dick, 127 N.M. at 384, 981 P.2d at 798.

{7} Congress has defined "Indian country" in 18 U.S.C. § 1151 (2000) as:

(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation, (b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States ..., and (c) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which" have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.

The parties agree that the site of the accident is not within the exterior boundaries of Cochiti Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, or any other pueblo. They further agree that if the land in question is Indian country, it must qualify as a "dependant Indian community" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1151(b).

{8} To resolve the question of whether the accident site is within a dependent Indian community, we apply the two-prong test set forth in Venetie. See Frank, 2002-NMSC-026, ¶ 23, 132 N.M. 544, 52 P.3d 404. Under the two-prong test, the land in question must: (1) "`have been set aside by the Federal Government for the use of the Indians as Indian land'"; and (2) "`be under federal superintendence.'" Id. ¶ 16 (quoting Venetie, 522 U.S. at 527, 118 S.Ct. 948).


{9} The district court found that the site of the accident was on land "set aside by the Federal Government for the use of the Indians of Cochiti Pueblo." This finding is not supported by substantial evidence.

{10} To determine whether there is a set-aside, we first look to the title...

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1 cases
  • State v. Quintana, 29,909.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • January 25, 2008
    ...of a `dependent Indian community'"). Thus, because we have already determined that there was no federal set-aside in this case, the land 178 P.3d 823 in question cannot qualify as a dependent Indian III. CONCLUSION {9} For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the Court of Appeals and hold that ......

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