Major Responsibilities of the U.S. Marshals Service
The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest and most versatile
federal law enforcement agency. Federal Marshals have served the country
since 1789, oftentimes in unseen but critical ways. To this day, the
Marshals occupy a uniquely central position in the federal justice system.
It is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, and as such, it is involved
in virtually every federal law enforcement initiative.
appointed U.S. Marshals direct the activities of 94 districts — one for each
federal judicial district. More than 3,925 Deputy Marshals
and Criminal Investigators form the backbone of the agency. Among their many
duties, they apprehend more than half of all federal fugitives, protect the
federal judiciary, operate the Witness Security Program, transport federal
prisoners and seize property acquired by criminals through illegal
The agency’s headquarters is just across the Potomac River from Washington,
Protection of federal judicial officials, which includes judges, attorneys
and jurors, holds a high priority with the Marshals Service. Deputy marshals
use the latest security techniques and devices at highly sensitive trials
throughout the nation. Fully-trained, contract officers comprise the
agency’s Court Security Officer (CSO) Program. These specially deputized
officers have full law enforcement authority and occupy a vital role in
courthouse security. The Marshals Service protects more than 2,000 sitting
judges and countless other court officials at more than 400 court facilities
throughout the nation.
The Marshals Service also oversees each aspect of courthouse construction
projects, from design through completion, to ensure the safety of federal
judges, court personnel and the public.
In fiscal year 2012, the Marshals apprehended more than 36,300
federal fugitives, clearing approximately 39,400 felony warrants.
Working with authorities at the federal, state, and local levels, U.S.
Marshals-led fugitive task forces arrested more than 86,700 state and local
fugitives, clearing 114,000 state and local felony warrants.
The U.S. Marshals Service works with the international law
enforcement community to apprehend fugitives abroad as well as to seek
foreign fugitives living or residing in the United States. In FY 2012,
the Marshals coordinated 619 extraditions and deportations.
The agency has four foreign field offices in Jamaica, Mexico, the
Dominican Republic and Colombia. The U.S. Marshals work closely with law
enforcement agencies along the borders of Mexico and Canada and with the
Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The agency also holds
key positions at Interpol.
The Marshals use both traditional methods and sophisticated
technologies for fugitive investigations, including tactical equipment,
electronic surveillance and aerial surveillance. Tactical equipment
includes covert audio and video alarms and sensors; digital, narrowband,
encrypted wireless communications; and radio and satellite
communications equipment, such as tactical repeaters, base stations and
portable tower trailers.
The Marshals Service provides for the security, health and safety of
government witnesses — and their immediate dependents — whose lives are in
danger as a
result of their testimony against drug traffickers, terrorists, organized
crime members and other major criminals.
Since 1971, the Marshals Service has protected, relocated and given new
identities to over 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members. The
successful operation of the Witness Security Program have been generally
recognized as providing a unique and valuable tool in the government’s war
against major criminal enterprises.
The Marshals Service houses over
59,800 detainees in federal, state, local
and private jails throughout the nation. In order to house these
pre-sentenced prisoners, the Marshals Service contracts with approximately
1,800 state and local governments to rent jail space. Eighty percent
of the prisoners in Marshals
Service custody are detained in state, local and private facilities; the
remainder are housed in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities.
In areas where detention space is scarce, the Marshals Service uses
Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) funds to improve local jail conditions
and expand jail capacities in return for guaranteed space for federal
Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System
In 1995, the air fleets of the Marshals Service and the Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) merged to create the Justice
Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS). The merger created a more
efficient and effective system for transporting prisoners and criminal
aliens. Operated by the Marshals Service, JPATS is one of the largest
transporters of prisoners in the world, handling more than 700 requests
every day to move prisoners between judicial districts, correctional
institutions and foreign countries. On average, more than 280,000 prisoner
and alien movements a year are completed by JPATS via coordinated air and
The Marshals Service is responsible for managing and disposing seized and
forfeited properties acquired by criminals through illegal activities. Under
the auspices of the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program, the
Marshals Service currently manages more than $2.4 billion worth of property,
and it promptly disposes of assets seized by all Department of Justice
agencies. The goal of the program is to maximize the net return from seized
property and then to use the property and proceeds for law enforcement
Service of Court Process
Historically, the U.S. Marshals Service has taken responsibility for serving
most Federal court criminal process. However, the courts have become more
receptive to other law enforcement personnel serving criminal process. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 4 and 4.1, and Rule E(4) of the
Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims, clearly define
the cases in which the USMS is responsible for service of civil process and
the manner in which such service will be made.
Deputy marshals carry out hundreds of special missions each year that are
related to the Marshals Service’s broad federal law enforcement and judicial
The Special Operations Group is a highly trained force of deputy marshals
with the responsibility and capability of responding to emergency situations
where federal law is violated or where federal property is endangered. Most
SOG members are full-time deputy marshals stationed in district offices
throughout the nation. They remain on call 24 hours a day for SOG missions.
Specially trained deputy marshals provide security and law enforcement
assistance to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force when
Minuteman and cruise missiles are moved between military facilities.
The Office of Emergency Management is the primary point of contact when the
Marshals Service is involved in sensitive and classified missions. It has
primary responsibility over the agency’s actions involving homeland
security, national emergencies and domestic crises.