Posse Comitatus Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Posse Comitatus, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Posse Comitatus?

n. It is a latin term meaning “possble force” where the senior law enforcement officer is given the right to include physically and mentally fit men and women to help him in taking into custody a criminal.These people act like a temporary police force who help in maintaning law and order.

History and Meaning of Posse Comitatus

Posse Comitatus is a Latin term that has been used in the United States since the 19th century. It refers to the power of the local law enforcement officer to call upon able-bodied citizens to assist in executing the law. The term stems from the idea that it is the responsibility of every citizen to help maintain law and order in their community.

The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878, as a reaction against the use of federal troops in domestic law enforcement. The act limits the power of the federal government to use military personnel to enforce the laws of the land. It is intended to preserve the balance of power between federal and state governments, and to prevent the federal government from overstepping its bounds.

Examples of Posse Comitatus

  1. In a small town, the sheriff calls upon a group of citizens to help search for a fugitive who has escaped from prison. This group of citizens is referred to as a posse comitatus.
  2. During a natural disaster, the local police department may call upon able-bodied citizens to help with evacuation efforts. Again, this group would be considered a posse comitatus.
  3. In some cases, the posse comitatus may be made up of members of a citizen's volunteer group. For example, in a rural area, the local sheriff may work with members of a local militia to provide additional security during a crisis.

Legal Terms Similar to Posse Comitatus

  1. Militia - a group of citizens who are trained and organized to provide military defense for their community.
  2. National Guard - a state military reserve made up of part-time soldiers who can be called up to provide assistance during a crisis.
  3. Vigilante - an individual or group of citizens who take the law into their own hands, without authorization from law enforcement.