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U.S. Marshals Service

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.

Presidentially appointed U.S. Marshals direct the activities of 94 districts — one for each federal judicial district. More than 3,752 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 activities.

The agency’s headquarters is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Judicial Security

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.

Fugitive Operations

In fiscal year 2015, the Marshals apprehended more than 33,300 federal fugitives, clearing approximately 36,600 felony warrants.

Working with authorities at the federal, state, and local levels, U.S. Marshals-led fugitive task forces arrested more than 99,700 state and local fugitives, clearing 119,173 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 2015, the Marshals coordinated 796 extraditions and deportations.

The agency has three foreign field offices in Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. 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.

Witness Security

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 approximately 18,865 participants – including innocent victim-witnesses and cooperating defendants and their dependent 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.

Prisoner Operations

The Marshals Service houses over 51,800 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 prisoners.

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 260,000 prisoner and alien movements a year are completed by JPATS via coordinated air and ground systems.

Asset Forfeiture

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 $3.1 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 purposes.

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.

Tactical Operations

Deputy marshals carry out hundreds of special missions each year that are related to the Marshals Service’s broad federal law enforcement and judicial security responsibilities.

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.

Major Program Area Fact Sheets is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice