Posse Comitatus Act

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The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, with the intention (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) of substantially limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement. The Act prohibits most members of the federal uniformed services (today the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, and State National Guard forces when such are called into federal service) from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain "law and order" on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States.

The statute generally prohibits federal military personnel and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Coast Guard is exempt from the Act.



The Act was a response to, and subsequent prohibition of, the military occupation by U.S. Army troops of the former Confederate States during the ten years of Reconstruction (1867–1877) following the American Civil War (1861–1865). The U.S. withdrew Federal troops from Southern states as a result of a compromise in one of the most disputed national elections in American history, the 1876 U.S. presidential election. Samuel J. Tilden of New York, the Democratic candidate, defeated Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio in the popular vote. Tilden garnered 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165; 20 disputed electoral votes remained uncounted. After a bitter fight, Congress struck a deal resolving the dispute and awarding the presidency to Hayes.

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