A crime of violence includes any offense that involves the use of physical force against another person. While violent crimes are often prosecuted at a state level, violent crimes can also be federal offenses, which often carry longer mandatory minimum sentences served in a federal penitentiary. Violent crimes can trigger federal jurisdiction depending on who the victim is, if the crime took place across state lines, and if it happened on federal property or Indian land.
The U.S. Code defines a “crime of violence” as (a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.
See 18 U.S. Code § 16.
There are a number of criminal offenses that could fall under the general category of violent crime. These include:
- Assault and Battery;
- Domestic Violence;
- Murder; and
- Gang Violence.
Assault and Battery on a Federal Officer
Assault and battery is a common criminal offense, and most of the time it is prosecuted under state law. However, in some cases it is a federal offense. Assault or battery on a federal officer is a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 111.
Anyone who forcibly assaults, intimidates, resists, or interferes with a federal employee may be charged with assault. The penalties for simple assault include a fine and imprisonment for up to a year. However, if any physical contact was made, the crime is a felony, with penalties up to 8 years in prison. If any bodily injury resulted or a deadly weapon was used, the defendant may face up to 20 years in prison.
Federal officers include employees of any U.S. government agency while engaged in their official duties, including the Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), and IRS employees.
Something as simple as a push or a shove could be considered assault, even where there was no physical injury. If you are charged with assault or battery of a federal officer, you should consider contacting experienced criminal defense lawyers who understand federal assault charges.
Domestic Violence and Stalking
Domestic violence can be a federal offense under the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) if it involves any kind of overseas travel or crossing state lines. This could include someone who travels to another state to assault a former spouse or intimate partner. If death results, the penalty can be life in prison.
Similarly, threats that takes place through the internet, social media, or email could be considered stalking under 18 U.S.C. § 2261. Stalking of a spouse, former dating partner, or those with a child in common, which causes substantial emotional distress or places someone in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury could result in federal prosecution.
Federal Robbery Charges
Bank robbery is a federal offense. Robbery is usually treated differently than simple theft because it often involves taking by force or violence. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2113, a violent, forceful or taking by intimidation of any money or property from any bank, credit union or savings and loan is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Kidnapping involves seizing, confining, abducting or the carrying away of another person. Kidnapping becomes a federal crime if the victim is transported across state lines, or somehow uses the internet or mail service in furtherance of their crime. Even if the person kidnapped stays in the state, by sending a ransom note through the mail, then the crime can fall under federal jurisdiction. Even if the victim is never harmed, the penalties for kidnapping can include life in prison. If the victim is killed, then a conviction can lead to the death penalty.
See 18 U.S.C. § 1201.
Murder and Homicide
Like assault and battery, murder, manslaughter or homicide charges can be federal charges, depending on the specific situation. The death of a federal officer or U.S. government official, or a murder that occurs within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States are violations under federal law. Murder-for-hire can also be charged as a federal crime, even when no one was ever killed.
Manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of another person without malice. If it is done in the heat of passion or because of a sudden quarrel, it is deemed voluntary manslaughter, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone dies during another unlawful act, or where a lawful act without due caution, might cause death. A conviction for involuntary manslaughter could bring a prison sentence of 8 years behind bars.
See 18 U.S. Code § 1112.
Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. The defendant does not have to intend to kill another person, as it can still be considered murder if someone dies in the course of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or arson. A murder conviction can result in a life prison sentence, or even the death penalty.
See 18 U.S. Code § 1111.
When gangs or gang members assault or shoot another person, they may be committing a federal criminal offense in addition to state crimes. Prosecutors often consider gangs part of a criminal enterprise that affect interstate or foreign commerce through their activity. Because gangs often deal in drugs, money or weapons that cross state lines or international borders, they can be prosecuted under federal law.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 521 criminal street gangs involve more than 5 people who engage in felony drug offenses, felony crimes of violence, or conspiracy to commit a drug crime or violent crime. The prison sentence for a conviction of a violent crime by a criminal gang member can be increased by an additional 10 years over the underlying criminal penalties.
Federal Violent Crime Defense
Federal investigations for violent crimes can involve state and local agencies, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal agencies. Federal prosecutors take violent crimes very seriously, which can result in very long mandatory minimum prison sentences. If you or someone you know is being investigated for a violent crime, or is facing criminal charges, it is important to have someone by your side to fight for your rights. Criminal defense lawyers who have successfully defended clients facing federal violent crime charges can help you through the process and investigate all the possible defenses to get your charges reduced, dismissed, or defend you in court.