While preparing an answer to this question, I started to wonder if Starfleet regulations apply to non-Starfleet Federation citizens.

I am aware that during its 50+ years, the terms "Starfleet" and "Federation" were sometimes used interchangeably. Although Starfleet is not a 100% military force in terms of contemporary politics and armed forces, it is as close as any organization in the Federation could be.

We know that both Federation and Starfleet have their legal acts and codes, examples:


  • Constitution of the United Federation of Planets
  • Federation Uniform Code of Justice
  • Federation Judicial Code


  • Starfleet Charter
  • Starfleet General Orders and Regulations

It is fully understandable that the members of Starfleet are subject to both Starfleet and Federation law.

It will not be argued that non-Starfleet personnel or civilians on board Starfleet ships, bases, or facilites are also subject to Starfleet regulations, in a similar manner as the UCMJ may apply to non-military.

But what about non-Starfleet Federation citizens (or Federation subjects, in terms of jurisdiction)? Do Starfleet orders or regulations, like the Prime Directive or General Order 7, apply to them as well?

Has there been an example of a Federation citizen being confirmed breaking a Starfleet law, while not being a subject to Starfleet?

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    Why would the Starfleet Prime Directive (among other rules) apply to those who are not part of Starfleet? It seems inherent to the definition of a Starfleet rule to apply to Starfleet, no? What's your basis for assuming that people who are not part of any organization are inherently required to still follow the rules of that organization? Do you know of any real life or fictional analogy?
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:00
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    Several Starfleet regulations like the Prime Directive, or General Order 7 would be pointless if any civilian with a ship can jeopardize them (by initiating First Contact or by visiting Talos IV). It might seem logical to extend some orders to general population. In general, I agree that Starfleet regulations should apply to Starfleet (only). Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:17
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    But then it's no longer a Starfleet regulation, as it applies well beyond the scope of Starfleet alone. It is then logically a part of Federation law. You already know this, because you make the same distinction in your question: "It is fully understandable that the members of Starfleet are subject to both Starfleet and Federation law." Conclusively mentioning both implies you know they're distinct. Your question is essentially arguing the semantics of "[organization] law". Of course that means it applies to [organization], otherwise it would not be called "[organization] law".
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:20
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    It is more like: "do US citizens have to comply with US military regulations?" One situation when it might happen is by declaring martial law, but the provision for that is stated in US Constitution (civil law). Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:45
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    Same difference. The answer is the same, US military regulations apply to the US military, by definition of "US military regulations". The explicit existence of martial law in the US constitution suggests that without explicit permission, the US army could not legally enfore martial law on civil entities.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


Most of us think of Prime Directive as just prohibition of interference with less developed society. But fact is that Prime Directive is a doctrine of total non-interference with the affairs of other species, irrespective of technology level. See Wiki for that.

Also from Wiki

Federation citizens did not need an exception as the Prime Directive did not apply to them. In fact, under the rules as defined in the Directive in the 24th century, a Starfleet crew was forbidden from forcibly removing Federation citizens from a world, even if they had intentionally and materially interfered with the culture of a world in a way that would otherwise have been prohibited by the Prime Directive.

This is seen in episode of TNG "Angel One"

Data even says they they cant force Ramsey to leave planet as he and his crew are not members of Starfleet, nor do they have to obey the Prime Directive

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    Wait, so any Federation citizen with a ship can go set themselves up as a God on a random pre-industrial planet and they can't do a thing about it?
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 17:57
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    @ceejayoz They can't punish him for breaking the Prime Directive, but one assumes there are more general Federation laws that would kick in eventually. Humanitarian stuff, and so forth. Such laws are probably not well-defined within the context of the shows, since the focus of the shows is on Starfleet personnel.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 18:59
  • Reading the above comments makes me think of the Voyager episode "False Profits". There was certainly some interaction that would have broken PD had the ferengi not put themselves in the position they did
    – Darren H
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 22:12
  • @ ceejayoz Well in a way yes. But it is very very hard to own a ship as a civilian in ST universe. I don't think I ever saw a human owning a ship. It is safe to assume that U.S.S. Raven was given to 7 of 9's parents by non-Starfleet organization, The Federation Council on Exobiology, while Starfleet was concerned about mission. But they would still have to pass some tests to have permission to have a ship. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 12:30
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    I am very annoyed by the way that "Angel One" claims that Federation citizens have absolute freedom to do whatever they want on non Federation planets and that Starfleet has absolutely no way to stop citizens from doing what they want, even when a friendly government asks Starfleet to help stop the Federation citizens. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 17:49

Starfleets General Orders generally apply to all those onboard starfleet vessels be they in Starfleet or otherwise, however they have no jurisdiction to enforce it's rules unless said rules are Federation Law. Starfleet's Uniform Code only applies to Starfleet officers, enlisted men.

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