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Terrorism and Terroristic Threats

Terrorism has become a legitimate concern throughout the country. Whether perpetrated by foreign nationals with a vendetta against the American government, or radical groups within the country, political violence seems increasingly common. Federal laws include special prohibitions against and punishment for terrorist acts. The following article reviews some of the more significant federal laws relating to terrorism.

What is Terrorism?

Terrorism is different from other crimes. Most crimes punish an act itself. The intent of the person carrying out the act may affect the defenses available, or the severity of the punishment, but in the case of terrorism the intent of the person is critical to the definition of the crime. Terrorism is outlined in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 113B.

Most terrorist acts would be considered a crime regardless of the intent of the person responsible. These acts, such as shootings, bombings, and other acts of violence would result in criminal liability regardless of the intent or purpose of the perpetrators. These crimes become terrorism when they are intended to intimidate civilians and the government.

In many circumstances, intent is difficult to prove. Normally, the burden of proving intent is on the prosecution, but in the case of terrorism, acts that "appear to be intended" to intimidate or coerce may still qualify as terroristic crimes without additional evidence.

One prominent example of a terrorism conviction involved Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building in 1995. McVeigh hoped the bombing would lead to a revolution. He was convicted for his use of weapons of mass destruction and for the murders for which he was responsible and put to death by lethal injection.

Additional Unlawful Conduct

In addition to terrorism and terroristic threats there are certain acts that are punished. These include:

  • Financial transactions with countries supporting international terrorism;
  • The bombing of public places, transport, or government facilities;
  • The possession, acquisition, or use of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft;
  • The production, acquisition, possession, or use of radiological dispersal devices;
  • Use, threat, attempt, or conspiracy involving weapons of mass destruction; and
  • acts of nuclear terrorism.

Harboring terrorists, or providing them with material support, is also prohibited.

Penalties

The penalties for terrorism and terroristic threats are severe. Penalties include:

  • Imprisonment for any term, including life, or the death penalty for acts that result in a person's death;
  • Imprisonment for any term, including life, for kidnapping;
  • Imprisonment for up to 35 years for maiming;
  • Imprisonment for up to 30 years for assault with a dangerous weapon, or an assault resulting in serious bodily injury;
  • Imprisonment for up to 25 years for destruction of property;
  • Imprisonment for any term of years up to the maximum for the underlying offense for attempts or conspiracy; and
  • Imprisonment for up to 10 years for threats.

These penalties are strict enough in themselves, but federal law also prevents the convicted from serving these sentences concurrently with others.

Get a Free Initial Case Assessment

Federal charges relating to terrorism or terroristic threats put a person at risk of not only severe criminal penalties, but also a disastrous impact on their reputation. If you have been accused of terrorism or terroristic threats you should be prepared to respond with the best defenses possible. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case review to learn how they can help.

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