Martial Law

Legal Definition and Related Resources of Martial Law

Meaning of Martial Law

military law . Acts done for the purpose of defeating invaders or rebels. The supersession of ordinary law and the temporary government of a country or parts of same by military tribunal .

Martial Law Alternative Definition

That military rule and authority which exists in time of war, and is conferred by the laws of war, in relation to persons and things under and within the scope of active military operations, in carrying on the war, and which extinguishes or suspends civil rights and the remedies founded upon them, for the time being, so far as it may appear to be necessary in order to the full accomplishment of the purposes of the war. Prof. Joel Parker, in N. A. Rev., Oct., 1861. It depends on the just but arbitrary power and pleasure of the king, who may not make laws without the consent of parliament, yet in time of war, by reason of the necessity of it, to guard against dangers that often arise, he uses absolute power; so that. hiS’ word is law. 21 Ind. 377. ‘ The phrases, “martial law” and “military law,” are sometimes carelessly used as meaning the same thing, but there is a broad distinction between them. Acting under constitutional authority, congress has passed divers acts prescribing the rules and articles of war, which constitute the military law, but apply only to persons in the military or naval service of the government. Martial law, when once established, applies alike to citizens and soldiers. In a proper sense it is not law, but merely the will of the military commander, who is responsible to his government or superior officer. Hale’s Hist. C. L. 54. War being simply an appeal to force, necessarily suspends and displaces the ordinary laws, and martial law prevails as an inavoidable necessity to restrain disloyal acts and preserve the authority of the government. This is true not only in the actual field of military operations, but also in remote districts where the inhabitants may be so far in sympathy with the public enemy as to obstruct the administration of the laws by the civil tribunals and render resort to military power necessary. But -Wfhere the civil courts, in the midst of loyal communities, are exercising their ordinary jurisdiction, the appeal to the military arm or to martial law is needless. 44 111. 159,

Related Entries of Martial Law in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Martial Law in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Martial Law in Historical Law

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Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

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Related Legal Terms

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Mentioned in these terms

Military Law.


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This definition of Martial Law is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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Martial law in the Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims

The law of military necessity in the actual presence of war, administered by the general of the army. Martial law is built upon no settled principles, but is entirely arbitrary in its decisions. In reality it is no law, but something indulged rather than allowed as law. The necessity of order and discipline in the army alone gives it countenance; therefore, it is not permitted in time of peace, when the courts are open for all persons to receive justice according to the laws of the land. See Mitchell v. Harmony, 13 How. 128 (1851). “Martial Law” is exercised over all classes of persons indiscriminately, in the actual presence of war.

Note: This legal definition of Martial law in the Dictionary of Law (English and American Jurisprudence) is from 1893.

Martial law in Law Enforcement

Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of martial law.


See Also

  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Police
  • Law Enforcement Agency

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