Each branch of the military has a law enforcement division referred to as the military police. They are responsible for enforcing laws on military bases. So, can the military arrest civilians?
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Military police do not typically have the authority to arrest civilians, even on military installations. Yet, a military police officer may detain a civilian until local law enforcement authorities arrive. Outside of a military installation, a military police officer may complete a citizen’s arrest and contact local authorities.
Can Military Police Officers Arrest Civilians on Base?
Whether the military police can arrest civilians depends on the jurisdiction. Many military bases have “concurrent jurisdiction.” It is part of the local jurisdiction and subject to local laws.
On a military base with concurrent jurisdiction, the military police or local law enforcement can investigate and prosecute a crime. However, the local law enforcement agencies typically prosecute crimes involving civilians.
For example, a civilian assaults military personnel or other civilians inside a military base. The crime will likely be investigated by local authorities instead of the military police. However, if a member of the military assaults a civilian, the case may be handled by either the military police or the local authorities.
Each military base with concurrent jurisdiction maintains arrangements with local civilian law enforcement agencies. The arrangements determine which agency will handle various types of criminal acts.
On military bases without concurrent jurisdiction, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction. Civilians charged with crimes on a military base may be arrested by the military base and processed through the federal court system.
If the crime does not violate any federal laws, the case may be passed to the state or local authorities.
Can Military Police Arrest Civilians Off-Base?
A military police officer may conduct a citizen’s arrest when they are off base. Military police have the same rights and privileges as civilians after they leave a military installation.
As a private citizen, a military police officer can make a citizen’s arrest when they witness a criminal act. A citizen’s arrest is an arrest completed by any person instead of a law enforcement official.
Conducting a lawful citizen’s arrest allows a person to detain an individual without being held civilly liable for assault, battery, or false imprisonment. While the laws vary from state to state, a citizen must typically witness a criminal act to conduct a citizen’s arrest.
Can Military Police Arrest Local Police?
A military police officer can detain a local police officer if a crime is committed on a military base. However, the actual arrest is likely to be carried out by local authorities or the nearest FBI field office.
Military police would follow the same procedures when detaining a civilian suspected of committing a crime on a military base. If the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction, the FBI is likely to handle the arrest.
On a military base with concurrent jurisdiction, the state police may handle the arrest of a local police officer. As with crimes committed by civilians, the details depend on the arrangements between the military base and civilian authorities.
Can Soldiers Arrest Civilians?
Under normal circumstances, soldiers and other active members of the military cannot arrest civilians. Soldiers do not have police powers, as the military is prohibited from carrying out civil law enforcement duties.
Yet, if martial law is declared, a soldier can arrest a civilian. When martial law is in effect, soldiers instead of the local police are responsible for enforcing laws. Civilians accused of crimes may face military tribunals instead of going through a civilian court system.
Can the Military Try a Civilian for Treason?
The military can only try a civilian for treason under martial law. Outside of martial law, civilians accused of treason are prosecuted by the state or the federal government. However, only one person, William Bruce Mumford, has ever been executed for committing treason against the federal government.
US citizens owe allegiance to their state and the federal government. Under the US Constitution, civilians charged with treason may be subject to death, five years imprisonment, or a $10,000 fine. State laws vary, but the penalties typically include lengthy prison sentences.
If martial law is declared, civilians can be charged for treason in the military’s court system, which is called the court-martial.