Martial Law is by far one of the biggest nightmares we could face, one that’s keeping many preppers awake at night. This is because it can happen in the aftermath of any number of natural or man-made disasters (see list below). In other words, if it’s happening, the country is in so much trouble that even the Government can’t handle it.
Now I’m assuming that Martial Law hasn’t happened yet, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to read this. Good. This means you have time to prepare for it and I hope, for your sake, that you do it quickly.
Table of Contents
What Is Martial Law?
Although the Supreme Court said that this term doesn’t have a precise meaning, let’s see if we can come up with a definition.
Martial law is, in short, the suspension of ordinary law, the Constitution, the Government, the legislative and even the judicial system. These laws are replaced with a strict, military dictatorship in times of emergency or civil unrest, when the current Government is unable to do its job.
In addition, a number of liberties are suspended, including the right to a fair trial and the right to free speech.
Not just in America, because it can happen anywhere in the world. Martial Law is the suspension of the Constitution and the placement of a military officer in charge of the Government in times when the 3 separated powers fail to function correctly. This could be for any number of reasons such as:
- a WMD attack,
- a foreign invasion,
- a devastating disaster such as a hurricane or Yellowstone erupting,
- civil war
- even a coup d’état.
There are, in fact, two types of martial law, on a national level (the most dreaded scenario) or localized, in case of a destructive event that only affects part of the country.
Has Martial Law ever been declared in the U.S.? This may come as a surprise but the answer is “yes”. According to Wikipedia, there was martial law:
- in 1773, after the Boston Tea Party,
- during the war of 1812,
- in 1863,
- in 1871, during the great Chicago fire,
- in 1892, 1906, 1914, 1920, 1921, 1934,
- in 1941 to 1944 in Hawaii,
- in 1961
- and, last but not least, the most recent one was in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (although, according to other sources, the term “martial law” doesn’t exist in the Louisiana Law).
Let’s not forget, however, that the term “martial law” has no precise meaning so the name and the idea of “martial law” are controversial to say the least.
Speaking of which, sometimes, our beloved leaders prefer to declare a state of emergency instead of martial law. Don’t be fooled.
They only reason they would do this would be to stop panic from spreading as the words “state of emergency” have a nicer ring to them. 🙂
Can Martial Law Be Useful?
Yes it can. When SHTF, most people will be unprepared and someone has to keep them under control. However, whether or not the Government can successfully do that with or without Martial Law, that’s another story.
Is It Close? When Will Martial Law be Declared?
As with any disaster, there’s always a small chance of it happening and no one knows the exact date it will happen. Most preppers expect it at some point so, although it’s hard to calculate the odds of it happening, it’s better to just prepare.
I can’t give you percentages but what I can give you are reasons this could happen at any time:
- The US has many enemies outside its borders: North Korea and Russia, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and so on because it has made a habit of sticking its nose into other countries’ business.
- Some of these enemies are trying to establish base camps on U.S. soil and even to recruit U.S. citizens to fight their wars.
- The politicians are either corrupt or incompetent. This reason alone should convince a lot of people to start prepping.
- Martial Law can be used by the president as an excuse to do whatever he wants when he really has no other option to reach his goals.
- A number of executive orders have been passed in recent years that are scary to say the least. One of them (13603) gives unprecedented power to the president over your resources.
The truth is, people have been expecting Martial Law in America for a long time, and although it hasn’t come yet, a lot of people, myself included, still think it’s very likely to happen.
I’m gonna tell you my personal reason why I think this is possible, even likely. Can you remember examples of wars or fights in human history that were won by the underdog?
I sure as heck can. Lots of them. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, are growing and Russia has the same military force as the U.S.
So if the parties that were thought to have the second chance have won quite a few battles in history, why can’t history repeat itself? It can.
Who Can Declare It, Anyway?
Martial law can be declared by either the President or the Congress of the United States, but localized Martial Law can be declared by the Governor.
What Would Life Be Like Under Martial Law?
It’s not that hard to imagine what Martial Law would look like. Life would definitely be tough. I have never lived under martial law but I did spend the first 5 years of my life under a communist regime in Eastern Europe.
What I can tell you, even though I don’t remember that much, is that life is tough.
However, since most people lived their whole lives like that, it was all normal to them. To you, it may not be so because you’re used to modern day conveniences.
Let me paint a picture for you on what things might look like:
Groups of armed men will patrol the streets, even during the day.
Your guns will probably be confiscated unless you hide them really well.
Food, water, and other resources can also be confiscated and you won’t be allowed to stockpile them anymore.
If you want to get food or water in a city, you might have to spend hours and hours in line for a loaf of bread (my dad used to wake up at 3-4 AM to get milk under communist Romania and he was in the military so he didn’t get any special treatment).
Expect sky-high inflation. The U.S. debt has been out of control for some time and under Martial Law, everyone will get rid of their dollars like they’re contaminated.
Any vehicle can be stopped or seized at any time.
Health is going to be a huge issue. With no running water for most people, rats and cockroaches will multiply and cause disease.
News will travel slow. Plus, a lot of it is going to be false. A good rule of thumb is to never believe something you hear while under Martial Law unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes or there’s a gun pointing at your head.
Suspension of habeas corpus.
You won’t have a right to a fair trial anymore. If you do something wrong, even if it’s with the sole purpose to defend yourself and your family, you will be judged by a military court.
Free press will be gone and so will freedom of speech.
You can expect armed checkpoints to be set up, even in small towns.
If you’re a rioter, a troublemaker, or even a potential suspect, you can expect to have “talks” with the militia or people form the military. You might also be forbidden to leave town even if you haven’t done anything wrong.
A lot of “average” people will be spies. This was a big deal under communist Romania. After the regime ended, many high-ranked politicians, writers, and artists accused each-other of being spies.
Expect rationing of electricity, hot water, and even TV air time. I lived to see it. I also estimate that free Internet will be a thing of the past.
You can expect to lose your home. In 1950, a number of hotels and homes were suddenly passed as belonging to “the people” with no compensation for their current owners whatsoever. This was happening in communist Romania, my country of birth.
As I’m writing this article, there are still dozens of thousands of trials started by homeowners or their descendants to get them back. It’s 65 years after they were robbed of their goods and 25 years since the communist regime has fallen and they still haven’t got them back.
Even though YOU may not heave means of communication, you can expect the military ruling to. They’ll obviously have a chain of command and some level of organization.
If you think you and your neighbors can stand against them to defend your liberties, I suggest you think this through really well. Read more on the realities of Martial Law here.
Some people want to survive martial law, others are willing to die for their liberties. The choice is yours, but please don’t be upset or patronize those who don’t make the same choice as you. We’re all in this together.
How to Prepare for Martial Law
So what can you do to prepare? Let’s take it one step at a time.
Step #1: Become a Prepper
In fact, this whole site is jam-packed with articles on survival and preparedness. You can stay up to date with the latest news and articles by subscribing to my newsletter.
You should also review this emergency list to make sure you’re not missing any vital items.
Here are the main aspects to get handled if you’re going to survive martial law:
- Shelter. You need a safe place to stay. A reinforced home, a bug out location, and even a tent or a tarp to be able to build shelter out in the wilderness.
- Food. For yourself, for your family, for your pets. The more the better.
- Medicine. Keep in mind any medical conditions you or your family members may have.
- Guns and ammo.
- Your fitness levels. You need to be strong and in shape.
- Skill. Starting a fire.
- Drills. You need to practice evacuating your home, bugging out, etc.
Step #2: Trust No One
When martial law is in order, you can bet anything that a lot of groups will impersonate the military or law enforcement officers, or even try to take over the community and become the law.
This is very likely to happen when, as us preppers like to say, in a WROL (Without the Rule of Law) post-disaster situation, when there’s going to be a lot of chaos and confusion.
Step #3: You Will Either Fight or Flight
When the time comes, you’ll be faced with possibly the hardest decision of your life. You’ll either bug in or out, waiting for the dust to settle, or you’ll fight for your country and your liberties.
Now, I’m not going to tell you which one of these options is best for you. There’s an ongoing debate about this with a lot of pros and cons on both sides.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need to make a decision and then follow through with it when the time comes. Whatever your decision is, it has to be crystal clear.
Step #4: Birds of a Feather Flock Together
When it’s on, it’s going to be you and the patriots in your community against them. But if you want to count on their help when it happens, you need to make friends with them right now.
You can even make war plans with them if you want, this will ensure that you’re ready to defend your turf once Martial Law hits and various factions try to invade your territory.
If possible, do hold regular meetings to better organize and prepare. Figure out your combined set of skills (medical, woodworking, guns, gardening etc.) and see if any of them are missing (you can find a full list of skills here).
What you need to do is develop a veritable survival dream team from your family members and your prepper friends but beware of betrayal.
You just never know when someone is a double agent or when they will simply want to take charge when the timing is right.
Step #5: Avoid “Concentration” Camps
If you read the news when Katrina happened, you couldn’t have missed the reports about the Louisiana Superdome that was used as shelter for over 20,000 people.
You see, even though the Superdome was built to withstand these kinds of emergencies, the structure itself wasn’t the problem.
The problem was the people inside and the conditions they had to live in. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to realize what it would mean to be forcibly taken inside military or governmental makeshift shelters:
There is feces on the walls. There is feces all over the place.
– Bryan Hebert, 43
The soldiers are looking more anxious. “People will go crazy and attack you!” they say. The girls spend the night huddled together, surrounded by a ring of guys. Two of them stay awake and break chairs to use the metal poles as weapons. I can’t believe it has come to this.
We don’t know how much longer we can hold on. The game plan now is to squeeze everything we can out of the Superdome and then get out.
I could go on and on with these but you get the point. If you end up in one of these camps that are allegedly there to keep you safe, you can expect to have no food, no water, no guns, and no security.
The solution? You either stay and defend your turf or you bug out at the first sign of martial law. Heck, even if things don’t look that bad you should still bug out if you’re going, otherwise it might be too late.
Step #6: Become a Gray Man
In short, you need to keep a low profile to avoid exposing yourself, your family, your guns, and your preps. This also implies that you keep your mouth shut at all times.
Never give up any piece of information unless it’s to save your skin or that of your family.
When Martial Law is the only “law”, all walls have ears. And don’t expect to have just one enemy trying to invade your privacy.
Your neighbor, a survival dream team member, the Government, they’ll all compete to find out what you’re up to.
When things are starting to go down, they will go down without notice. That’s when you have to act fast and bug in our out, depending on your circumstances.
Keep in mind martial law is not like a state of emergency, which is basically a walk in the park. Your rights will be suspended. Law enforcement could knock at your door and demand that you go with them. And this could last weeks, probably even months.
Probably the best thing you can do is lay low. The less human interaction, the better. A safe retreat, lots of supplies, weapons, your family – that’s all you need to survive.
Oh, and be sure to pin this for later on your favorite Pinterest board!
updated August 7th 2019 by Dan F. Sullivan