Everything You Need to Know About Martial Law

Everything You Need to Know About Martial Law

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Many people have been worried about the possibility of martial law. I’ve seen a lot of memes circulating and people sharing information that just isn’t quite accurate. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about everything you need to know about Martial Law. 

What is Martial Law?

Martial law, in simple terms, is when the military takes over an area. It is a law administered by the military rather than by our civilian government. It can be declared in an emergency, a response to a crisis, or to control occupied territory. When this happens, many of our civil liberties are taken from us. 

Declaring martial law is a rare and momentous decision for the civilian government to make. When it is declared, civilian control, or some or all aspects of government, is ceded to the military. This means that the elected government officials, the people we have voted for, are NO longer in power. 

Civilians have ceded control of the country in exchange for the restoration of order. 

What Happens During Martial Law?

Everything You Need to Know About Martial Law

What scares many people is what happens when martial law is declared. Some of our civil liberties, such as your right to free movement, free speech, protection from unreasonable searches, and other liberties are suspended. The justice system that handles criminal and civil law is replaced with a military justice system. This means:

  • You could be arrested for violating curfews.
  • You could be arrested for offenses that would not be considered serious in normal situations.
  • Laws relating to habeas corpus that are designed to prevent unlawful detention may be suspended. 
  • The military can detain individuals indefinitely without the possibility of recourse. 

Key Information to Remember

Here is the key information you need to remember about martial law:

  1. It is administered by our military, NOT our civilian government, in an effort to restore order.
  2. Martial law is only declared in an emergency, a response to a crisis, or to control occupied territory. 
  3. When martial law is declared, your civil liberties are suspended. This means rights such as free movement, speech, protection from unreasonable searches, and habeas corpus laws can be suspended. 

How is Martial Law Declared?

Martial law can have negative ramifications, and thus, declaring martial law is to be reserved as a last resort. This means law and order are rapidly deteriorating. Typically, martial law rests in the hands of the president. However, there are limiting factors such as how long it can last. For example, the president could declare martial law during a time of violent civil unrest, but only for 60 days. 

In the United States, martial law can be declared by the president, congress, or it can be declared by the governor of a state. A governor has the right to impose martial law within the borders of the state over which he/she is responsible. 

Why Would it Be Declared?

There are several reasons the United States President would declare martial law. Here are a few:

  1. It may be declared to reign in violent protests.
  2. Martial law can be declared for insurrections.
  3. It can be declared if there is civil unrest.
  4. Another reason is if our country occupies foreign territory, such as at the end of a war. 
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An example of when martial law was used was back in 1892 when the governor of Idaho instituted martial law. He did this after a group of rebellious mine workers blew up a mill, leveled a four story building, and killed one person. 

Martial Law in the United States: When Have We Used It?

In the United States, martial law has been used in several instances. Here are some of the times leaders have declared martial law:

There are other instances of it, but these are just a few. 

Martial Law Concerns Preppers Have

When you look at martial law and what it means, you may not fully grasp all the ways it can affect your daily life. Preppers, however, are looking at all the different aspects of life that can change, and what we need to prepare for. Here are just a few of the concerns that many preppers have:

Mass Surveillance

Those in charge will have surveillance to identify individuals who are viewed as troublemakers. In addition, martial law is used to control the population. But, this also means they can track you and what you do. When martial law is declared, your cellphone can be tracked without a warrant. So, you may want to ditch the cell phone. 

Media Restrictions and Censorship

During martial law, there is no doubt that media coverage will have complete government control. This means there will be heavy restrictions on content and what can be posted or shared. 


Curfews are a way to control the masses. The curfews will start off small in certain areas of the country and then could build up to curfews all over the nation as additional control is necessary. 

Gun Confiscation

Another fear is that if the military is trying to establish law and order they won’t want you to have guns. Having guns and ammunition confiscated has always been a fear of preppers. 


Obviously, with curfews and such, people won’t be able to work around the clock to bring the food to the stores. This means we will need to ration it. Additionally, if rationing comes into effect, having food stashed away could possibly be held against you and become illegal. 

Relocation, Detention Centers, and Killings

During martial law, you could be considered guilty before being proven innocent. This means there could be mass arrests, quick trials, and executions, concentration camps, and shoot to kill orders.

Although we don’t know that any or all of these things will happen, it is always better to be prepared than not. 

How to Prepare for Martial Law

As tensions rise between groups of people in America right now, many have been concerned about the possibility of martial law. And, in some cities, we have seen looting, rioting, military involvement, and curfews put in place. With that being said, we need to be prepared. Here are some ways you can prepare for the possibility of martial law:

Prep Enough Food and Water

As I stated above, even violent protests can mean martial law for 60-days. This means you need enough food and water for at least 60-days. I don’t know about you, but if the military is moving up and down my street, I sure as heck am not going to the store to buy more supplies. 

Keep in mind that during this time there could be major power outages as well because of the civil unrest. So, you will want to have a variety of food options. Be sure to have plenty of canned goods and non-perishables that you can eat if you don’t have a fridge or freezer to keep things cold. Check out my post Survival Food and Emergency Food Storage to learn more about prepping food. 

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The American Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day. I recommend four gallons per person per day! Read my post How to Store Water for Drinking and Cooking!

Hide Weapons

Obviously, you may want a weapon or two that are easily accessible, but you MAY also want to hide weapons and ammo. This is because if the government does decide to confiscate your guns and ammo, you will have to decide if you want them hidden where they can’t be found. This could be a tough decision based on how the laws work under a martial law system.

Prepare Your Home for Looting

If there are rations, you may be a target to looting. Desperate times may call for desperate measures for those who are not prepared. Find out How to Prepare Your House Against Looters, here

Stock Survival Items

You don’t need just food and water to survive. You may need alternate ways to stay connected, medicines, first aid, or ways to hunt. When you prep, you have to think of all the things you will need to stay alive for a longer period of time. Check out my list of 30 Non-Food Survival Items to Stockpile. You may also want to read Emergency Items that Will Disappear First

Decide if You Will Bug in or Bug Out

Before martial law happens, you will want to make some tough decisions with your family. This includes whether or not you will bug out to another location or stay put. Some people have bunkers they can go to that will be much safer than staying where they are. However, others may have all they need right in their home. You’ll want to make your decision now and have a plan. You can find my suggestions for bugging out, here.

How to Survive Martial Law

Hopefully if martial law is declared, you have already prepped! But, prepping isn’t all you need to do. You also need to know how to survive it while it is happening. Here are a few tips:

Keep a Low Profile

Anyone who has previously expressed civil disobedience will most likely be the first target. In all the chaos, they will be looking for the trouble makers. So, it’s important to avoid rioting, name calling, or attracting attention to yourself. 

Don’t Talk too Much

First of all, do not tell anyone you are a prepper. You don’t want to be a target for looting or have the military confiscating your stuff. Additionally, when collecting intel from neighbors and friends, do more listening than talking. 

Don’t Dress in Camo

If you wear military-style clothing, you risk a confrontation with military personnel. Your ultimate goal during martial law is to become the “gray man” and be less visible. 

Keep the Peace

Even if you feel that whoever is in authority is not looking out for you, you need to cooperate. This means you give respect and stay out of trouble. You don’t want to give anyone a reason to harm you or your family. If you are cooperative, you will appear meek and non-threatening. Use that tactic to your advantage. 

Keep the Act Up

As a prepper, you will have less reason to go to the streets to get things, however, if you live in the city you don’t want anyone to know that. You want to play the part of the “sheeple.” Pretend with your neighbors that you have nothing. Keep up the act of trying to find food etc. Observe your neighbors and act like they do.

Be Ready to Defend Yourself

During civil unrest, you never know what’s going to happen. While you can, take self-defense classes, have and make improvised weapons, and again keep yourself less visible. 

Final Word

Martial law is serious business. Sometimes it is necessary, but even when it is, you should still be prepared to survive it. Remember, prepare for the worst and hope for the best! Please stock up if and when you can. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Martial Law Deposit photos_179267038_s-2019

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  1. There is no national martial law.
    There is only local and state. That’s for a reason.
    The way the president played it during covid lockdown shows what I’m saying. He turned it over the the state as should be.

    1. Hi Matt, I’m so glad you commented. I wanted to send the article to you before I published it. I can only write what I can read and research. You are in law enforcement as I remember, right? You know I respect your ideas, comments, and thoughts. Thank you, Linda

      1. Yup
        I appreciate it. It’s a hard topic to broach these days as emotions are high. I understand why too. It’s stressful.
        I look at Venezuela, Brazil and South Africa today for guidance on possibilities. I lived through the Balkans and still follow Selco as those lessons guide me.
        Yeah I’m law enforcement and I know it’s unpopular. It’s not the first time it’s been unpopular. I was a survivalist, soldier and a reserve police officer during the klintons and Waco. Everyone hated me. I’m not even sure my dog liked me during those days lol. I just try and do what’s right. I didn’t get it all right but I tried. I retire in 8 months. Y’all can have it cause I’m done with it all.
        I said what I did about the Fed/state cause folks are looking one direction led by unseen forces when they should be looking closer to home. A good example is who’s got mask mandates right now? Not the feds. It’s state, county and local. Martial Law is no different.

        1. Hi Matt, it’s too bad that people can’t be kind to one another. Thanks for your service my friend, we need more law enforcement just like you. And soldiers just like you, and I bet your dog loved you!! LOL! That statement made me giggle! I was watching the news this morning and two police officers were killed after going to a “family dispute”. This is just terrible. I must be naive because I have only called the police once in my entire life and I’m 70. It was to alert them about a child molester going to the elementary school about 5 years ago who lived in our neighborhood. I had no idea there were so many family arguments going on. Getting off my rant!! So glad you only have 8 months left. Stay safe and stay well, Linda

  2. Matt, I pray that you will have a restful and peaceful retirement, with lots of joy. I am one that appreciates those in your profession and carriers. I do not know much, but I know that there are always things that we do not understand and know about. You take care and, I am sure will, be careful.
    From Just a little ol Greatgrandma.

  3. Linda –
    One of the biggest things that concerns me and correct me if I am wrong!!: Internet searches, and trails, are not private now! I believe that we are already being tracked so here is my theory. If we are being tracked already, the government (state, local and federal) already know those of us who prep, have weapons, etc.

    So, how do we stay off the radar? I am a law abiding citizen and can follow the meek/mild, low profile scenario BUT, if they already know about me, they are coming for my preps. How do we really protect ourselves from this?

    1. Hi Leanne, you know I’m in the same boat as you age and prep wise. I hear “the government” will come and get our stuff. That may be true, but really if we think about it, there will be bigger fish to fry than what we have at our homes. I have a neighbor that has ammo delivered every month (huge boxes) those are the guys we need to watch out for. Yes, we are being tracked, traced, or whatever you want to call it. Nothing is private, but I personally can’t spend my time worrying about it. If I could do something about it I would, but I can’t. I’m more worried about our country right now. But I can’t fix that either. Life is crazy right now, God help us all. Stay well, Linda

        1. Hi Leanne, I really think we need to remind each other and the people around us that we are strong and will get through this mess. Are there nights or days that I “stew” about an issue in our country or the world, yes I do. I am more worried about some of my friends who are 70 years and older who are struggling mentally with the COVID quarantine. It’s hard to hear friends sobbing on the phone. I’m afraid this is not going to end anytime soon so we must be the strong examples. God is looking down and smiling knowing we are trying to make the best of life right now. Hugs, Linda

    2. I may be a little nervous- too much- but I feel that the updates we receive from Microsoft etc will also include occasional NSA tools for the ability to checking on us. Just try to be thoughtful in what you look at or order on line. Use cash while you can for local purchases.

      1. When the COVID lockdowns came about, just about all the places I shop locally refused to take cash! Some places still don’t want to take cash, apparently due to the shortage of coins. So, I have started taking my coins to the local fresh fruit/veggie place! The even give me a discount for using my coins so they are not short anymore. Now, that being said, I am not hoarding coins but I have always tossed my change in a jar for “emergencies”!! I probably only have $45-50 in coins and most of that is pennies.

  4. It seems that surviving martial law means almost thinking like we’ve been invaded by a foreign power. And how we are treated depends on the scenario and the people in charge who may be power hungry, fearful of looking inept or they do the job without compassion or using common sense and maybe take it too seriously…. treating fellow citizens as if they’re the enemy.

    For this reason it occurs to me that maybe we need to examine the law as a society and install some guidelines that prevent any kind of abuses or ill treatment of the citizens or orders to subordinates to push too hard or carry out illegal orders. I don’t believe in the government having the right to confiscate anything from citizens since our taxes fund them and our military and they have huge stockpiles of supplies and they create tons of military surplus which we have to purchase if we want any of it. It’s like we pay twice for it, but they’ll give it away free to another country.

    After reading your article, I view it as being part of the resistance like in World War 2 when everyday people became homemade spies and agents, collecting data, staying low and under the radar, using secret codes, sharing messages and carefully stashing gear and supplies away from confiscation or looters.

    Hopefully if it ever happens again, it won’t be carried out as an intimidating or threatening exercise against the people, but rather as an act of cooperation between all factions and with good intentions.

    1. Hi Frank, great comment as always. I don’t believe the government should have the right to confiscate our weapons unless they are stolen or suspect we are going to use them the wrong way. My concern is being heard and treated fairly. I believe we have a lot of corruption in our government and we have no way to change it. We have high hopes when we vote people in and then only to find they were no better than the last group. I know we have a few good leaders but a whole lot more that should be replaced. But money and greed get in the way. Just my two cents. I bet our ancestors are rolling over in their graves right now. May God bless this world, we need it. Linda

  5. I live outside the Seattle area. We have had a curfew several times. We had a few days that were down right scary. Looters came into the suburbs to try and do what was done in Seattle. They were met by armed citizens. Quickly they went back to Seattle and established that “chop zone”, which was a terrible situation for those living in the Capital Hill area of Seattle. I honestly didn’t think I would ever see a situation like I have seen these last few months. Seattle has taken the stance of let’s pull back and just let this play out. Only when someone was killed on the freeway (from protesters rioting on the highway) did they stop that and arrest the violators.

    1. Hi Gayle, oh my gosh, this is terrible. I keep telling my husband this is going to start happening everywhere, and yes in the suburbs. Thank you for sharing your experience people need to hear it from real people and not just the news. All I can say is wow, wow, wow. Please stay safe and well, my friend, Linda

      1. Thank you Linda. Everyone in our area watched the news absolutely horrified at our beautiful city being trashed by these people. The next day, citizens went to clean it. And it happened again and again. They targeted some of our more wealthy communities and hit the mall. They had video of them saying “we are coming to the suburbs!”. I went and got some shotgun shells and they declared a curfew. We were glad of it! We wanted the police to be diligent and be out and responsive. Some of the businesses had friends come with their guns. It was a terrible time and a terrible stress on top of the stress of COVID. Being aware, and not going where they are acting out is important.

        1. Hi Gayle, wow, wow, wow! This is so terrible. I sometimes wonder where are the parents of the rioters!?! Or grandparents or other family members. I am horrified at how these people are acting. There are no words, disgusted would be at the top of the list. I’m glad you got more shotgun shells. I’m glad they set a curfew, this is so bad for our country to look like crazy people on the TV news. I’m praying for you, your family, your city, community, and state. Hugs from Utah, Linda

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