Mr. C. F. Fleming
P. O. Box 1648
Hazard, Kentucky 41701
RE: Jurisdiction of Railroad Policemen
AGO Corr. No. 92-(O)-1704
Dear Mr. Fleming:
By letter of November 10, 1992, you pose several questions regarding the jurisdiction,
under speicfied circumstances, of railroad policemen.
Your questions, in substance, and answers to each of them, are set forth below.
You are cautioned that the answers given below are intended to express the general rule.
They should not be taken as legal advice regarding the propriety of an arrest in a given case. As
the railroad may be liable for an unlawful arrest by a railroad policeman (see, for example,
Louisville & N.R.R. v. Offutt, 204 Ky. 51, 263 S.W. 665 (1924)), we suggest that you consult
with railroad legal counsel regarding the questions you have posed, and our answers to them.
Such consultation should be related to both the general rule as we have indicated, and in regard
to the propriety of actions in a given case.
(1) May a railroad policeman serve an arrest warrant, off railroad property, for an offense
committed on railroad property?
(2) May a railroad policeman make an arrest off railroad property, but within a county where
the railroad operates, for a felony, on probable cause, without an arrest warrant?
(3) Do railroad policemen have jurisdiction to serve criminal process and make arrests in
counties that the railroad does not operate in, for offenses committed against the railroad?
The powers of railroad policemen are set forth in KRS 277.280(1), which provides, in
pertinent part, that:
Each policeman so appointed and commissioned shall, throughout the counties
through which the railroad operates, have and exercise the powers of sheriffs and
constables in making arrests for public offenses committed upon or about railroad
property, and in serving process in criminal and penal prosecutions for such
offenses, and shall be subject to all the liabilities of sheriffs or constables.
Given the language of KRS 277.280(1), above, the answers to the questions you have
posed are respectively:
(A) A railroad policeman may serve, off railroad property, an arrest warrant, as a process in a
criminal prosecution, for an offense committed on railroad property, if such process is served
within a county through which the railroad operates, since the jurisdiction of a railroad
policeman, pursuant to KRS 277.280(1), is limited, in part, to "throughout the counties through
which the railroad operates, . . . for public offenses committed upon or about railroad property."
(B) A railroad policeman may make an arrest off railroad property, but within a county
through which the railroad operates, for a felony, without an arrest warrant, if (1) the offense is a
felony, and (2) the arrest is for an offense "committed upon or about railroad property," and (3)
the circumstances specified in KRS 431.005(1)(b) or (c) are present. KRS 431.005(1)(b) provides
that a peace officer may make an arrest without a warrant when a felony is committed in his
presence, and KRS 431.005(1)(c) provides that a peace officer may make an arrest without a
warrant when he has probable cause to believe that the person being arrested has committed the
(C) Railroad policemen do not have jurisdiction to serve a criminal process and make arrests
in counties through which the railroad does not operate. This is because the specific words of
KRS 277.280(1), regarding the arrest and criminal process power of railroad policemen,
authorize such officers to make arrests and serve criminal process only "throughout the counties
through which the railroad operates." See Opinion of the Attorney General (OAG) 73-536, copy
enclosed, which we follow here regarding arrest jurisdiction of railroad policemen.
You might want to obtain and review copies of the Kentucky Revised Statutes
(KRS) 277.270, and the following sections, and review cases cited in the annotations to those
provisions pertinent to railroad policemen. Railroad counsel might assist you in this endeavor.
Gerard R. Gerhard
Assistant Attorney General