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In light of the recent discovery of cocaine inside the West Wing of the White House, I am wondering if a person who either lives in, or works in, or makes a visit to the White House, is caught using an illegal drug within the White House by a member of the Secret Service, whether that Secret Service member can immediately arrest that person and then turn that person over the Washington D.C. police department for prosecution.

Or, is arresting someone in the White House for drug possession/drug use not one of the job duties of the Secret Service?

Can the Secret Service arrest someone who uses an illegal drug inside of the White House?

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  • I'm not sure that I understand the question you are asking. It is illegal to possess or use cocaine in the US (barring exceptions for researchers with a special license or police doing a sting) so it is illegal to possess or use cocaine in the White House. It sounds like you may be asking whether the Secret Service can/ must/ will arrest someone for drug possession, whether that person would be turned over to DC police if arrested (I'd expect that drug possession in the White House would result in federal, not state/ district charges), etc. Jul 6, 2023 at 15:55
  • @JustinCave, I understand what you are saying. I will edit the Body text to clarify what I would like to know.
    – user57467
    Jul 6, 2023 at 15:59
  • @Jen, my question is specific to just illegal drug possession and use inside of the White House.
    – user57467
    Jul 6, 2023 at 16:14
  • @JustinCave "It is illegal to possess or use cocaine in the US" It actually isn't. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug and available under prescription, in the same category as Adderall and Oxycodone. A common use is as an anesthetic for nasal surgery. Methamphetamine is also available under prescription, it's used for severe obesity. Of course, the issue with the White House isn't that somebody dropped a FDA-approved bottle with a prescription label on it...
    – user71659
    Jul 7, 2023 at 18:20

3 Answers 3

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The Secret Service is primarily concerned with protecting the people and information they oversee, not enforcing laws.

They have the power to arrest someone for any unlawful conduct, but unless a drug user is presenting as a threat to a protectee, they are unlikely to be arrested by the Secret Service.

More likely the Service would simply escort the person off the premises and refer the matter to the DC Metro Police to handle.


Edit: Such a case would not be turned over to the US Capitol Police (as originally written)
It would most likely be referred to the DC Metropolitan Police Department.
Corrected my answer above.

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    Secret service agents have the power to arrest someone for violations of federal law or in a citizen's arrest under state law. But they do not otherwise have the power to arrest someone for violating state law unless expressly deputized to do so by that state. Drug possession is a federal offense, so this issue is irrelevant to this question, but there are plenty of things which are crimes under state law but not federal law (e.g. drunk driving and intrastate prostitution).
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 7, 2023 at 6:21
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    The Capitol Police would certainly not be involved. They protect the legislative branch, and aren’t the city’s general-purpose law enforcement agency.
    – cpast
    Jul 7, 2023 at 12:32
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    @ohwilleke The Secret Service Uniformed Division regularly patrols DC streets and enforces the DC Code. DC is weird when it comes to federal/state, but even outside DC they have been given local authority in a lot of states.
    – cpast
    Jul 7, 2023 at 13:29
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    "The Secret Service is primarily concerned with protecting the people and information they oversee, not enforcing laws": while the Secret Service's best known role is that of the executive branch's security service, it was founded as a law enforcement agency to combat counterfeit currency.
    – phoog
    Jul 8, 2023 at 6:42
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See 18 U.S.C. § 3056(c)(1)(C) — Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service:

(1) Under the direction of the Secretary of Homeland Security, officers and agents of the Secret Service are authorized to —

(C) make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony;

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The Secret Service Uniformed Division has powers “similar to those of the members of the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia” and routinely makes arrests for both violations of nationwide federal law and violations of the DC Code. Leaving aside that possession of drugs can generally be charged under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the Uniformed Division has full authority to arrest for it under DC Code drug provisions. For instance, here’s a case from 2000 where Uniformed Division officers arrested someone in northwest DC for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. There was no question of their authority to make the arrest. The Secret Service is actually one of a handful of uniformed federal police forces that regularly exercises DC Code authority on public streets (along with the Park Police), let alone inside the White House complex.

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