martial law

All you need to know about Martial Law declaration in the USA

This is all you need to know about Martial Law declaration in the USA and also other details on the imposition of direct control by the military.

Most, especially in response to a temporal emergency where civil forces are in occupied territory.

Martial Law has taken effect nine times since World War II and was designed to counter resistance.

However, the policy is also adopted to counter revolt to federal desegregation decrees in the South

With the current cases of Covid-19 sporadically spreading and creating a global unrest.

The idea of martial law is one of the measures that could be considered as a strategy.

So as to curb the virus and to establish social distancing as a public safety measure.

When Martial law is evident, the military commander of territory has endless authority to make and administer laws.

Martial law is exercised when a civilian has ceased to exercise his authority, or when the authority becomes ineffective.

Also, when Martial law is evident in the country it suspends every other existing law, as well as every civil authority and the administration of justice.

In the US, Martial law can only be declared by the president or a state governor.

Even though the US constitution makes no specific provision for the imposition of martial law.

All states have a standard constitutional provision authorizing the government to impose and exercise this law.

What is Martial Law?

Martial Law does not have an established definition but it is said to be a policy or law that is relegated by a military government.

It may be declared in cases of emergency or response to the crisis.

Likewise, Martial law can also be seen as a temporary military rule by military authorities of a particular area in cases of emergency when the civil authorities have lost their capability to function.

Martial law can be declared by a government to curb a particular situation that could wreak havoc on a nation.

As seen in multiple countries like Armenia, Canada, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, Switzerland, etc.

It is very rare to see a country that is consistently involved in practicing Martial law

This is beacuse Martial law is a very momentous decision for a civilian government and the reason behind its implementation must be tangible.

Because when Martial law is evident, civilian authorities and every aspect of government operations are yielded to the military.

Therefore, this connotes that, in cases where a civilian government is elected, the representatives chosen by the voters are no longer in power.

In such cases, it opines that the civilians have yielded the control of the country for an exchange.

For the potential restoration of laws while having in mind that control may not be redeemed in the future.

Certain civilian rights would be withdrawn when Martial law is exercised intensively.

Such as the right to free movements, rights to free speech, right to human rights, and other civilian rights that affect the principles of Martial law.

Why do Countries enforce this Law?

Martial law comes handy when a country is threatened by a popular protest.

It is also induced to suppress political opposition, it is also used to attack bad government or to stabilize perceived revolts.

Also, this law can be enforced in cases where there are major natural disasters.

However, oftentimes countries use a different legal construct, like “state of emergency”.

When it comes to conflicts and in cases of occupations or where the absence of civilian authority provides an unstable population.

Martial law is the only way out when it comes to conflict and issues of unstable population.

An example of this form is the World War II reconstruction in Germany and Japan.

Ordinarily, the enforcement of this law does not just evolve because declaring martial law is a last resort any civilian government would go for.

It is reserved for peculiar situations where law and order are tremendously deteriorating.

For example, in 1892, the second governor of Idaho, Coeur D’Alene region N.B Willey (1838-1921) instituted martial law in his state.

A group of rebellious mine workers as at then blew up a mill, which leveled a four-story building and one person was killed.

Wiley dealt with a labor-management strike between miners and mine owners which gave him loads of restlessness.

So he resorted to ultimately enforcing martial law and calling in both the militia and federal troops. 

Martial law can also be declared when the Country’s military occupies a foreign territory

The enforcement of Martial law works in accordance with curfews, the suspension of civil law and rights, habeas corpus, and the extension of military justice to civilians. 

The power to enforce Martial law is vested on the president. The cases in which it may be enforced are enshrined in legislation or a constitution of the country

Martial Law declaration in the US

Martial law in the United States was not recognized as ‘martial law’ it was seen as an emergency power until the mid-19th century.

But martial law has been declared for other localities or States in the US under diverse circumstances and also after a direct foreign attack.

Or after a major disaster and in response to chaos associated with revolts and mob actions

For example, during the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike, in San Francisco Montgomery, Alabama following the mob actions against freedom riders.

It was declared by the renegade local leaders seeking to avoid arrest or challenges to their authority.

For example in San Francisco, during the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike, Montgomery, Alabama.

Martial law was induced by the renegade local leaders who were seeking to avoid arrest or challenges to their authority 

Logically, the martial law techniques in the United States are closely linked with the right of Habeas Corpus (where a detainee comes before the court to determine if the detention is lawful).

This in essence means a right to lawful imprisonment and also the right to fair hearing. 

Article 1, section 9 of the US constitution connotes “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

In other words, Martial law is can be exercised when Habeas Corpus is been exploited.

There have been many cases where military rule has been exercised in the United States and also within the borders of the United States.

Military activities in the US are categorized.

First, the armed forces assist civilian authorities most of the time even with non-law enforcement functions.

The military Oftentimes try their best to protect the civilian interest irrespective of their limitations.

For instance, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the civilian authorities couldn’t protect themselves.

So the military deployed helicopters along the Gulf Coast to carry out a search and rescue mission.

Secondly, during the Los Angeles riot of 1992, the federal troops were deployed to help police suppress the chaos. 

Thirdly, on several occasions, the military has taken the place of the civilian government.

A government that categorically describes a power that, in cases of emergency, allows the military to push aside civilian authorities.

Also, every authority would be on hold as the martial officers exercise total judicial power over the population of a particular area.

The most popular form of martial law declaration in the USA that is recent in history is the Pearl Harbor of December 7. 1941.

On December 7, 1941, in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor which lasted for three years.

Until October 24, 1944, the intentions of the martial law officers at that time weren’t transparent.

Since most of the occupants that accounted for one-third of the population of Hawaii were Japanese Americans.

It was impossible to imprison about 160,000 people in such a small territory and a lot of individuals would be victimized.

In the same light, martial law in Hawaii was a way of interning the Japanese population in the State.

While other states like Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and California put their Japanese American population under the rule of internment camps.


Martial law however doesn’t mean it is a condensed type of exercise or a lockdown scenario. 

The federal government often time use martial law than the states, to impose a reconstruction or in terms of natural haphazard.

And also to redefine the complexity of a constitution and also to adjust conflicts and unreasonable revolts 

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