Posse Comitatus Act Law and Legal Definition

The Posse Comitatus Act is an act that prohibits the federal government from using the armed forces as a posse comitatus for law enforcement, except in cases and circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress. The act was enacted in the year1878, and it is cited in 18 USCS § 1385.

In United States v. Yunis, 681 F. Supp. 891 (D.D.C. 1988), the court observed that , “The Posse Comitatus Act, provides that: Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the U.S. 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 not more than $ 10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” The court further observed that “The Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1385 (1979), is designed to limit "the direct active use of federal troops by civil law enforcement officers" to enforce the laws of the nation. Limiting military involvement in civilian affairs is basic to our system of government and the protection of individual constitutional rights.”

Further, in State v. Danko, 219 Kan. 490 (Kan. 1976), the court held that “The Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U. S. C. S. § 1385, expresses a policy that is for the benefit of the people as a whole, rather than a policy which could be characterized as designed to protect the personal rights of individual citizens as declared in the Fourth Amendment, Application of the extraordinary remedy of exclusion is unnecessary as an added deterrent to the serious criminal sanctions provided in the Act.”