Federal crimes of violence like murder, domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA"), robbery, kidnapping, gang violence, and carjacking, involve some of the most serious criminal charges an individual can face. The penalties of years, decades, or life in prison and even the death penalty, can be life-altering for those convicted, as well as their family members and loved ones.
Being investigated or charged with a federal crime of violence is a serious and sobering matter. If you’re facing potential federal charges for criminal violence, federal investigators may already have evidence against you. It is in your best interest to consult with a violent crime defense attorney immediately. A federal violent crimes lawyer at the Stracci Law Group can provide a free case review to discuss the specifics of your case.
What Is Considered a Violent Crime?
Many types of violent crimes are charged and prosecuted in federal court. Violent offenses often involve actual physical harm to a person or the threat of or attempt to do physical harm. Some types of violent crimes are prosecuted in state courts, but when violent offenses cross state lines, occur on federal property like the post office or federally insured banks, involve the internet, or otherwise affect interstate commerce, they are investigated by federal agencies like the FBI and prosecuted by federal prosecutors in federal courts.
Types of Federal Violent Crimes We Handle
18 U.S.C. §1111 defines murder as “ the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.” Murders can be charged as federal crimes of violence in several circumstances depending on the status of the victim, the location where the crime occurred, and other unique facts and circumstances. The vast majority of federal murder cases are those in which a death occurred during the commission of other types of violent crimes which are federal felony violent offenses:
- Arson - 18 U.S.C. §844
- Kidnapping - 18 U.S.C. §1201
- Racketeering - 18 U.S.C. §1959
- Bank Robbery - 18 U.S.C. §2113
- Drive-By Shooting - 18 U.S.C. §36
- Carjacking - 18 U.S.C. §2119
- Robbery of Controlled Substances - 18 U.S.C. §2118
- Crime of Violence or Drug Offense Involving a Firearm - 18 U.S.C. §924(j)
- Abusive Sexual Conduct - 18 U.S.C. §§ 2244, 2245
- Certain Child Exploitation Crimes - 18 U.S.C. §2251(d)
- RICO, Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations - 18 U.S.C. §1962
- VICAR, Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering - 18 U.S.C. §1959
Hobbs Act Robbery and Extortion
The Hobbs Act (18 U.S. Code § 1951), criminalizes obstruction, delay, or impact on commerce by robbery or extortion with the use of actual or threatened violence. The Act was passed to target racketeering and organized crime activities, but now federal prosecutors also use the Hobbs Act to prosecute armed robbers who victimize businesses, for example, robbing bars, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, and sometimes even drug dealers.
Bank Robberies, Burglaries, and Larcenies
Federal crimes of violence also include robberies. Banks, Credit Unions, and Savings and Loan Associations are federal institutions regulated and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Because of this, robbing a bank can be a federal violent crime that requires the assistance of a federal violent crimes attorney. Also, nearly every case in which a firearm is used, especially those relating to federal violent offenses is prosecuted in federal court. Federal crimes involving banks and credit unions include:
- Bank Robbery - 18 U.S.C. §2113(a)
- Bank Larceny - 18 U.S.C. §2113(b)
- Armed Bank Robbery - 18 U.S.C. §2113(d)
- Killing or forcing accompaniment during a bank robbery - 18 U.S.C. §2113(e).
Under 18 U.S.C. §1201, the crime of kidnapping includes seizing, confining, abducting, carrying away, and holding for ransom or rewarding any other person. Not every kidnapping is a federal offense. To be a federal crime, the kidnapping must have some federal nexus, like transportation across state lines, use of the mail, or using some other means of interstate commerce to commit or further the offense. While the FBI investigates violent offenses like federal kidnapping crimes, under the “Lindbergh Law” it also has jurisdiction to investigate disappearances and kidnappings involving children.
Hostage-taking is a violent offense related to kidnapping but involves holding a person in with the intent to get another person to take a specific action (vs paying a ransom). 18 U.S.C. §1203 defines hostage as seizing or detaining a person while simultaneously threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain them in order to get someone else (or a governmental agency) to take some specific action. Hostage-taking violent charges can result from hijacking or robbery situations where individuals are held during release negotiations.
Carjacking is another of the federal types of violent crimes. The carjacking statute is used to punish those who, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm, take a motor vehicle from the person or presence of another person by force and violence or by intimidation. The Supreme Court has ruled the carjacking statute defines three, different violent offenses:
- (1) the forceful taking of a vehicle
- (2) the forceful taking of a vehicle that results in serious bodily injury
- (3) the forceful taking of a vehicle that results in death
When the federal government files violent charges for carjacking resulting in injury or death, it must plead those facts in its indictment. Carjacking is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But, if serious bodily injury results, it is punishable by up to 25 years in prison, and if death results, it is punishable by any number of years in prison up to life or death.
Criminal violence can also include threats. A threat is an expression of an intention to do something bad. Federal violent offenses encompass a variety of criminal threats:
Threats to Specific People
- Federal Officials - 18 U.S.C. §115
- Federal Judges - 18 U.S.C. §115
- President and Vice President of the United States - 18 U.S.C. §871
- Presidential candidates and former Presidents - 18 U.S.C. §879
Threats Made in Certain Ways
- Blackmail - 18 U.S.C. §873
- Threats by Interstate Wire - 18 U.S.C. §875
- Threats by Mail - 18 U.S.C. §876
- Hobbs Act Extortion - 18 U.S.C. §1951
- Threats to Damage or Destroy a Building by Explosives - 18 U.S.C. §844
The law regarding threatening communications is ever-evolving, and you need a federal violent crime defense attorney who keeps abreast of the changing legal scenery. For instance, the United States Supreme Court recently overturned a conviction, ruling the government failed to prove the communication was made either to issue a threat or with the knowledge that it would be viewed as a threat.
RICO, Racketeering, and Corrupt Organizations
RICO makes it a federal crime to participate in or make money from a pattern of racketeering (organized criminal activity). The law was enacted to combat syndicates like the Mafia, but nowadays federal prosecutors use RICO to prosecute businesses and especially street gangs. Because RICO allows the government to go after all of an organization’s different crimes in one prosecution, RICO cases typically involve a large number of individuals being charged in a single indictment.
In order to prosecute RICO violations, the government must prove that members of a criminal enterprise (like a street gang), engaged in a pattern of racketeering (ongoing criminal activity) that affected interstate commerce.
RICO is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but depending on the charged criminal activity, the penalties may quickly escalate.
VICAR, Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering
VICAR makes it a federal crime to commit a crime of violence in aid of racketeering. In order to prosecute VICAR violations, the government must prove an enterprise affecting interstate commerce existed, the enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, and that a member of the enterprise committed a crime of violence to gain entry to, maintain, or increase his position in the enterprise.
VICO is punishable by up to 3, 5, 10, 20, or 30-year prison terms depending on the facts of the allegations. If kidnapping is alleged, the penalty escalates to any term up to life in prison, and for murder allegations, the penalties escalate to any term up to life in prison or death.
Penalties for Federal Violent Crimes
The penalties for federal violent offenses are significant. There are five classifications of federal felony charges:
- Class A Felonies: Life imprisonment, or the death penalty.
- Class B Felonies: Twenty-five years or more in prison.
- Class C Felonies: Less than twenty-five years but ten or more years in prison.
- Class D Felonies: Less than ten years but five or more years in prison.
- Class E Felonies: Less than five years but more than one year in prison.
Along with prison time, individuals convicted of federal violent offenses may be ordered to serve a term of supervised release or probation, complete community service, and pay fines and restitution.
Defense Strategies for Federal Violent Crime Charges
Federal violent crime defense attorneys can mount a number of different defenses for those charged with violent offenses. These include:
- Actual Innocence
- Lack of Evidence
- Mistaken Identity
- Mistake of Fact
- Lack of Intent
- Self Defense
- Defense of Others
- Illegally Obtained Evidence
- legally Obtained Evidence
- Violation of Right to Counsel
- Withdrawal from the Crime
- Entrapment (one must show that they had no original intent to commit a crime, and did so only because law enforcement agents persuaded or coerced them.)
Certain defenses, such as alibi, are only available if your violent crime defense attorney provides advance written notice during pretrial proceedings. If your violent crimes lawyer doesn’t provide the required notice, you may be prevented from using it in court.
If you have been indicted or you know you are under investigation for federal violent charges, contact the violent crime defense attorneys at Stracci Law Group. We are familiar with all available defenses to federal violent offenses and can help you deftly navigate federal criminal violence investigations.
How a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help?
Being charged with a federal crime of violence can be a devastating and overwhelming experience for both you and your family. Federal agents and prosecutors will show no sympathy towards you, your alleged offense, or your loved ones. The general public tends to react negatively to news of violent crimes.
Families of alleged victims will push for maximum penalties. Thus, even if you are innocent, your battle will be difficult - especially if your case receives media attention. The risk for you and your family is the harsh federal penalties, including decades behind bars, life in prison, or even death. All the more reason why you need to hire the right team of federal violent crimes attorneys.
Contact Our Violent Crime Defense Lawyers Today
Representing yourself in a federal criminal case can be time-consuming, exhausting, and extremely risky. If you do not follow the rules, you can easily lose your case. When your future is at stake, working with a knowledgeable and reputable Indiana violent crime defense attorney can help you get the most optimum outcome for your serious charges.
When you hire the Stracci Law Group, you get a team of experienced federal violent crimes lawyers with a long history of defending a wide variety of federal violent charges and crimes. Stracci Law Group works with top investigators and uses every resource available to protect your future. Contact the Stracci Law Group Defense Team today at (219) 525-1000 to set up a consultation with a violent crimes attorney.