Posse Comitatus ActThis article is about a United States statute prohibiting the use of the armed forces for law enforcement. For the sheriff's powers of law enforcement at common law, see posse comitatus. For the terrorist organization, see The Posse Comitatus.
The Posse Comitatus Act
is a law of the United States
(18 USC 1385) passed in 1878
, after the end of Reconstruction
, and was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate
states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard
under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution
. The original act only referred to the Army
, but the Air Force
was added in 1956
and the Navy
and Marine Corps
have been included by a regulation of the Department of Defense
. This law is mentioned whenever it appears that the Department of Defense is interfering in domestic disturbances.
There are a number of exceptions to the act. These include
- National Guard units while under the authority of the governor of a state
- troops when used in pursuant to the Federal authority to quell domestic violence as was the case during the Rodney King riots
The relevant legislation is as follows:
- Sec. 1385. - Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus
- Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.