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What is Martial Law?
What’s important to know about this field of law?
In this article, I will break down the meaning of Martial Law so you know all there is to know about it!
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Table of Contents
What Is Martial Law
Martial law refers to the body of laws granting the military the power to restore order in response to a crisis, civil unrest, or state of emergency.
When martial law is declared by the government, the military effectively takes control of the government and will take all necessary measures to ensure the order is restored.
As such, martial law substitutes the laws adopted by the government for the normal functioning of society.
For example, in some extreme cases of civil unrest, the government may declare martial law effectively suspending civil rights and liberties and ceding all or certain aspects of government to the military.
This can have serious implications for a country as the elected government is ceding its power to the military without having any guarantees that the elected officials will be reinstated in power.
Countries and nations that declare martial law are faced with an important crisis or emergency where the elected government officials feel that the best way to regain control is through important military intervention.
There are many who are opposed to the use of martial law in dealing with civil unrest or crisis as it can lead to important violations of human rights and freedoms by law enforcement.
Nonetheless, many countries (including the United States) can declare martial law in exceptional situations.
Keep reading as I will further break down the meaning of martial law and tell you why it’s important.
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Why Is Martial Law Important
Martial law is important as people’s rights and freedoms can be severely affected.
Essentially, when martial law is declared, the government is handing over its powers to the military and civil rights and freedoms are suspended.
For example, a person can be detained and arrested by law enforcement without having to demonstrate that the detention or arrest was warranted or reasonable.
Individual right to free speech and free movement is suspended allowing the military to arrest or detain anyone that poses a threat to the public as perceived by the military.
In essence, when martial law is declared, civilians can be arrested or have their rights restricted in ways that a normally functioning government would not have.
In addition, the courts and judiciary no longer have the ability to oversee law enforcement’s conduct, actions, and activities.
As a result, the military and law enforcement will exercise their powers without judiciary oversight or interference by the executive branch.
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When Is Martial Law Declared
Martial law is declared in exceptional circumstances when the government and elected officials hand over their powers to the military.
Very often, the government will declare martial law when there’s an important risk to public safety.
The most common reason why martial law is declared is when a country is attacked by another country.
As such, government officials declare war against other country and at the same time declare martial law.
Another reason why martial law is declared is for a government to take control or occupy another territory.
In history, there have been instances when martial law was declared to combat important civil unrest and protests, to silence political dissent, or to take control of a government when the elected officials have abandoned power.
There have been instances when martial law has been declared following major natural disasters requiring military intervention.
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Practicing Martial Law
Practicing martial law is essentially to examine what’s best for society and how public interest should be stacked against individual interests.
Martial lawyers are those that have a deep understanding of civil rights and liberties, understand the meaning of living free, and contribute to defining the fine line between public safety and individual rights.
Typically, martial law lawyers also have an interest in politics, political events, and history.
The main objective of martial lawyers is to defend public interest and individual rights and freedoms, participate in legislative discussions promoting such interests, and ensure that citizens of the nation can live free.
Criminal lawyers should also understand martial law so they can adequately defend and represent their clients who are detained.
Filing habeas corpus petitions, understanding due process requirements, and understanding individual rights and freedoms can help criminal lawyers act effectively and competently.
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Martial Law FAQ
What does martial law mean?
Martial law refers to the suspension of civil rights and liberties and the handoff of government powers to the military.
There are severe consequences in declaring martial law and governments will only want to declare martial law as a last resort when they cannot restore law and order through normal operations.
Martial law can be declared to put an end to civil unrest, cease protests by the population, prevent a coup d’état, or deal with an insurrection.
Very often, when martial law is declared, curfews are imposed on the population forcing them to remain in their homes at certain times of the day.
Who can declare martial law?
In the United States, martial law is declared by the U.S. President, the governor of a state, or in some cases by the local military commander.
There are laws in place that set out the rules and requirements for how and when martial law can be declared.
What are some examples of martial law?
In the United States, the government used the military to control riots in six occasions:
- New York City draft riots of 1863
- Disbanding the “Bonus Army” in 1932
- Detroit’s 12th Street riot of 1967
- Newark riots of 1967
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s murder in 1968
- Los Angeles riots in 1992
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So there you have it folks!
What does martial law mean?
In a nutshell, martial law refers to a military takeover of a country’s government and civil system.
In the United States, the U.S. Constitution does allow the government to use martial laws in case of rebellion or to protect public safety.
When martial law is declared by the government, the military effectively takes control of all or some aspects of the government and can act as it deems necessary to deal with the crisis or emergency.
This means that individual rights and liberties are suspended, the judicial body no longer has the ability to oversee law enforcement activities, and individuals can be arrested or detained as deemed necessary by the military.
In other words, the military is the judge, jury, and police!
Now that you know what martial law means and how it works, good luck with your research!
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