What is Domestic Terrorism?
After the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States government passed a law called the Patriot Act. This law changed some of the rules about what is considered domestic terrorism. The government takes terrorism very seriously and has strict rules about what are considered acts of domestic terrorism. Allegations of domestic terrorism can lead to extremely serious consequences.
Federal law prohibits domestic terrorism under 18 USC § 2331(5). The threat of wide-scale harm due to a set of beliefs meant to influence, intimidate, or harm the United States or its population can lead to a domestic terrorism charge. Activities that are dangerous to human life and violate United States federal or state laws are defined as domestic terrorism. These activities are considered domestic terrorism if they seem intended to do any of the following:
- Intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
- Influence government policy through intimidation or coercion; or
- Affect the conduct of the government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
If you are facing a domestic terrorism charge, then it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
What are the Potential Penalties for Domestic Terrorism?
It is against the law to try to use any form of violence or threat of violence against a population based on a belief system. The threat of terrorism is one that the federal government does not take lightly. A conviction for domestic terrorism can have varying punishments that can result in a life sentence or even the death penalty. The main issue that determines the severity of a punishment related to a terrorism charge is whether someone was killed in the commission of the alleged act.
What are Some Examples of Domestic Terrorism?
For a terrorism charge to be considered domestic, it must take place on US soil or in a US-controlled area. Some of the most common examples of acts of domestic terrorism include:
- Trying to damage or destroy an airplane, and harm or kill the people who fly it
- Setting fires on purpose
- Killing or attempting to kill a government official
- Attacking a place where the government functions
- Attacking public transportation like buses or trains
- Using or placing a bomb
- Attacking with poisonous gas
- Using explosives
- Taking hostages
- Kidnapping a government official
- Mass shooting
- Using nuclear or biological weapons
If a person helps or aids a terrorist in any way, they can be charged with domestic terrorism. This includes if they help finance terrorist activity, provide support or services to terrorist organizations, or harbor a terrorist. Someone who has aided and abetted a terrorist can face charges as though they had completed the act of terrorism themselves under 18 U.S.C. 2.
What are Some Common Defenses of a Domestic Terrorism Charge?
There are several defenses that can be used if you are accused of domestic terrorism. Several defenses may be available depending on the answers to some of the following questions:
- Did the police violate your constitutional rights?
- Is this a case of mistaken identity?
- Were comments made that were not meant to be seriously taken?
- Is there a cultural bias?
- Is the case actually terrorism or just an alleged act of violence?
The answers to these and other questions about the allegations in your case will help determine what potential defenses are available to you. Some terrorism defenses can only be put forward before a trial, while others can only be made during a trial. Make sure you have your case evaluated by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to determine what your potential best defenses are and how to proceed with your case.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Across the United State, federal criminal cases are processed in federal District Courts under federal law. In Pennsylvania, there are three federal Districts known as the Central, Middle, and Eastern Districts. These districts are set based on geographical location. All federal criminal cases in the state of Pennsylvania are heard in these districts based on location. If your case is alleged to have taken place in central or eastern Pennsylvania, then your criminal case will be heard in either the Middle District or Eastern District Court.
If you disagree with a decision or verdict in a federal district court, then you can file an appeal to a higher federal court of appeals. Appeals from the Middle and Eastern Districts are heard and decided in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The only remaining appellate court higher than that is the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court chooses the cases it hears and decides. There is no right to be heard in the United States Supreme Court.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you have been charged with a crime such as domestic terrorism by the federal government, then it is critical to have an attorney who has experience with federal defense. Your attorney can help you understand the charges you are facing and how strong the evidence is against you. You will need to evaluate your case to determine your best defense strategy and decide if it is in your best interests to go to trial or make a deal. If you have questions, please contact us.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being investigated or prosecuted for domestic terrorism by the federal government, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm Team today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help defend your federal case.