SHERIFF. The name of the chief officer of the county. In Latin he is called vice comes, because in England he represented the comes or earl. His name is said to be derived from the Saxon seyre, shire or county, and reve, keeper, bailiff, or guardian.
2. The general duties of the sheriff are, 1st. To keep the peace within the county; he may apprehend, and commit to prison all persons who break the peace or attempt to break it, and bind any one in a recognizance to keep the peace. He is required ex officio, to pursue and take all traitors, murderers, felons and rioters. He has the keeping of the county gaol and he is bound to defend it against all attacks. He may command the posse comitatus. (q. v.)
4. - 3d. The sheriff also possesses a judicial capacity, but this is very much circumscribed to what it was at common law in England. It is now generally confined to ascertain damages on writs of inquiry and the like.
5. Generally speaking the sheriff has no authority out of his county. 2 Rolle's Rep. 163; Plowd, 37 a. He may, however, do mere ministerial acts out of his county, as making a return. Dalt. Sh. 22. Vide, generally, the various Digests and Abridgments, h. t.; Dalt. Sher.; Wats. Off. and Duty of Sheriff; Wood's Inst. 75; 18 Engl. Com. Law Rep. 177; 2 Phil. Ev. 213; Chit. Pr. Index, h. t.; Chit. Pr. Law, Index, h. t.