Posse Comitatus Act:

Posse Comitatus Act:

The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385, original at 20 Stat. 152) signed on June 18, 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes. The purpose of the act – in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807 – is to limit the powers of the federal government in using federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States. It was passed as an amendment to an army appropriation bill following the end of Reconstruction and was subsequently updated in 1956 and 1981.

The act only specifically applies to the United States Army and, as amended in 1956, the United States Air Force. While the act does not explicitly mention the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy has prescribed regulations that are generally construed to give the act force with respect to those services as well. The act does not apply to the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard under state authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within its home state or in an adjacent state if invited by that state’s governor. The United States Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, is not covered by the Posse Comitatus Act either, primarily because although the Coast Guard is an armed service, it also has both a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission.

The title of the act comes from the legal concept of posse comitatus, the authority under which a county sheriff, or other law officer, conscripts any able-bodied man to assist him or her in keeping the peace.

Posse Comitatus Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titles
  • Knott Amendment
  • Posse Comitatus Act of 1878
Long title An act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and seventy-nine, and for other purposes.
Nicknames Army Appropriations Act of 1878
Enacted by the 45th United States Congress
Effective June 18, 1878
Public law 45-263
Statutes at Large 20 Stat. 145 aka 20 Stat. 152
U.S.C.sections created 18 U.S.C. § 1385
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 4867 by Herman L. Humphrey (RWI), William Kimmel (DMDon May 13, 1878
  • Passed the House on May 18, 1878 (130–117)
  • Passed the Senate on June 6, 1878 (36–23)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on June 15, 1878; agreed to by the House on June 15, 1878 (154–58and by the Senate on June 15, 1878 (Agreed)
  • Signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes onJune 18, 1878
Major amendments
1956, 1981

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