State Has Authority Over Individual Fisherman To Impose On-Reservation Sentence For Off-Reservation Illegal Fishing

A recent state Supreme Court case, State v. Cayenne, docket no. 80499-1, held that a state trial court could restrict a Chehalis tribal member’s right to own a gillnet, on or off the reservation, as part of his sentence for illegal fishing.

Cayenne, a member of the Chehalis Tribe, was fishing off the reservation and convicted of felony illegal use of a net. The Chehalis Tribe does not have off-reservation treaty fishing rights because it never signed a treaty.

Part of Cayenne’s sentence was an eight-month prohibition on owning a gillnet. Cayenne argued that the trial court lacked the authority to impose this sentence on the Reservation, because the state does not have authority to regulate on-Reservation fishing, except for reasonable and necessary conservation measures.

However, the court reasoned that the sentence was against Cayenne, not against the entire Tribe, and that the state did have jurisdiction over Cayenne.

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