Wikipedia defines Martial Law as “The imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis”.
Martial law is a scary topic for any prepper. Typically, in a disaster scenario, martial law is the first step taken by authorities in an attempt to regain control over citizens and disaster situations. Martial law has been declared by the federal government well over a dozen times in American history, and with the rising knee-jerk response of the government to “terrorist” activity these days, a nation-wide declaration of martial law is not that far-fetched in the least bit.
When would Martial law be declared?
For nearly the entirety of the U.S.’s modern history, martial law has been used primarily in very serious natural disasters. However, in 2012 the National Defense Authorization Act drastically reduced the oversight from congress and other judicial bodies to declare martial law within the borders of the United States. Section 1031 of the NDAA virtually repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which declared the involvement of the military in a law enforcement capacity unconstitutional. Today, martial law can (and has) been declared for situations outside of natural disasters.
In a nutshell, the U.S. government, backed by the National Defense Authorization Act, can declare martial law, and therefore suspend the liberties of the constitution, whenever they feel the need to. We won’t get into politics here, but it’s pretty clear that a national enactment of martial law is a MUCH more realistic possibility today than it was even 20 years ago.
What are the rules of martial law?
Martial law is nothing less than the absolute suspension of constitutional rights of the American people. The military will become the defacto authority in the affected area and are not subject to the limitations of our normal judicial system. Military law will supersede the constitution and the civilians in the affected area are under complete authoritative control of the military.
Often, in a case of martial law, public curfews are enacted and enforced. Weapons, including firearms or any other devices a soldier may deem dangerous can and will be confiscated. During Hurricane Katrina, martial law was declared for the city of New Orleans, during that time, over a thousand firearms were confiscated by the US army and national guard. Very few of these weapons were ever returned to their owners.
Probable Cause is no longer a necessity for law enforcement. Searches and Seizures that were once completely illegal and unconstitutional are commonplace. In many past disasters, private stockpiles of food, water and other supplies were commandeered by the military without compensation or permission.
As far as oversight within a marital law situation, regular courts and judicial processes are suspended. All judicial processes are now under direct control of the military and internal military court proceedings.
When does martial law end?
Until the NDAA, martial law required a majority vote and had a large amount of oversight from congress. However, today martial law is at the direct discretion of the commander of the armed forces, the President of the United States. To make it simple, martial law ends when they say it ends and the NDAA prevents any challenge to that power.
What should you do when martial law is declared?
With the growing amount of domestic terrorism, government surveillance and other key indicators of civil unrest, it is highly likely that martial law will be declared on a very wide, if not, national scale sometime in the future. So what will you do when the soldiers start patrolling the streets or demanding that you stay indoors?
This isn’t an easy question. A lot of people may think that leaving town is the best way to deal with martial law. In fact, if done at the right time, and your destination is far away from the cause of the disaster, this is a very good idea. However, if martial law has already been declared, it is highly unlikely that you will be allowed to leave. If you are, you will most likely be directed or taken to a FEMA disaster recovery location. If you think martial law is coming soon, get out now before it’s too late.
If however, martial law has been declared without warning and you are stuck in the affected area, or if martial law is passed at the national scale, there are a few things that you can do to mitigate the effect of martial law on you and your loved ones.
Martial law, in essence, can be treated just like many other disaster scenarios. The best advice for someone dealing with martial law is to simply hunker down in a well prepared location. Many times this is referred to as “bugging in”. Although more is recommended, 30 days of supplies will most likely get you through most “bug-in” disaster scenarios, including martial law. Having a sufficient supply of food, water, medications, energy, defensive tools and sanitation supplies means that for 30 days, you can simply bar the door and pretend the outside doesn’t exist as long as no one in a uniform comes knocking.
Obviously in a natural disaster, this may not be possible, and in the end you may end up with your bug-in location completely destroyed or uninhabitable. You may want to plan ahead for a situation like this and have an agreement set up with another like-minded family or individual within the area where you can “bug-out” to if your location becomes compromised. This would not only be beneficial during martial law (if you can get there without incident) but in many other disaster situations as well, especially natural disasters..
All in all, martial law is something you should hope to never go through. Unfortunately, in the state the country is in, it seems almost inevitable. Keep your cool and plan ahead and you’ll probably be just fine in the end.