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U.S. Marshals Service

U.S. Marshals Service for Students

Fugitive Investigations

Since the beginning of our nation, the United States Marshals Service has been responsible for apprehending (arresting) most federal fugitives.

The Marshals Service is responsible for enforcing federal court orders and serves as the administrative custodian of all federal warrants until they are executed or dismissed.  In addition, the Marshals Service manages warrant information, investigates fugitive matters and executes arrest warrants.

Most of the Marshal Service federal fugitive cases include:

  • escapes
  • default bond (fail to pay) or failure to appear in court
  • violate probation or parole (fail to follow the orders of federal court)
  • most Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fugitives (so DEA can investigate more drug crimes)
  • other investigative agencies with no arrest powers

Arrest Authority: United States Marshals and their deputies may make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence.

Complaint: a written statement of facts describing an offense under oath before a magistrate judge. If the judge thinks there is probable cause to believe an offense was committed and by the named person, the judge may issue an arrest warrant to any authorized officer.

Execution of Warrant: warrants must be executed by a U.S. Marshal or some other officer authorized by law at any place within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Executing an Arrest: to take into legal custody, seize, or hold by legal authority or physical restraint a person to answer for an offense he or she is alleged (accused) to have committed. Initial contact with the person to be arrested can be dangerous, deputies plan an arrest and decide if the local police are needed to carry out the arrest safely.   Deputy Marshals:

  • properly identify themselves and show their badge and credentials
  • explain the purpose for the arrest
  • physically restrain the person
  • do not debate issues with the arrested person
  • take the arrested person to a location to prevent escape
  • avoid using unnecessary force
  • secure the prisoner with handcuffs
  • never underestimate a prisoner
  • remain constantly alert regardless of the person’s status or condition
  • immediately search a prisoner to:
  • detect weapons
  • prevent escape
  • collect evidence
  • read the prisoner their constitutional rights in a language they understand, before they are interrogated (questioned)
  • take the arrested person before the nearest U.S. magistrate judge, local judge, without unnecessary delay

The deputy marshals also arrest federal fugitives and execute (carry out) warrants from agencies with no arrest powers. The U.S. Marshals work with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on multi-agency task forces. These task forces focus law enforcement resources and attention to the most serious cases. Task forces allow law enforcement officers to work together, increasing the opportunities to locate and capture dangerous violent fugitives. Using electronic surveillance equipment, which is using electronic science to help deputy marshals locate fugitives.  Special analytical methods and computer systems also help deputies to investigate and apprehend fugitives.

Deputy Marshals arrest more than 16,000 fugitives a year, as a result of criminal investigation procedures, advanced task force methods, applied electronic science, and computer information processing systems.

INTERNATIONAL CASES: Dangerous drug criminals and international drug traffickers often have money, weapons, and dangerous contacts to help them avoid capture. U.S. Marshals work with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in foreign locations to apprehend and extradite (deliver a fugitive) and American and foreign fugitives.

MAJOR CASES and 15 MOST WANTED: The Marshals Service releases listings of their major cases and the “15 Most Wanted”  these are the most dangerous fugitives.  These listings let the public know,  that if they have any information on these criminals to contact the Marshals Service office.   For a case to make one these listings it must involve at least one of the following:

  • a criminal with a history of violence and weapons
  • a major drug kingpin, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fugitives, the Presidential Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) fugitives, and violent gang fugitives
  • a fugitive who has committed a crime that has national, international, district or regional attention, or whose case has been identified as one of special interest by the Department of Justice or the Marshals Service
  • an important state, local or other federal agency case where arrest authority has been assigned to the Marshals Service.
  • an important international fugitive for whom a provisional arrest warrant was issued

The Marshals Service uses computer systems to manage warrants, records and information collected during investigations of fugitives. These automated systems communicate with other international, national, state and local law enforcement systems to help capture fugitives as quickly as possible. 

Learn More about a famous USMS Fugitve Investigation is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice