Violent crimes involve actual physical harm to a person or the threat of or attempt to do physical harm. Most are prosecuted in state courts, but when violent crimes cross state lines, occur on federal property, or affect interstate commerce, they are investigated by federal agencies like the FBI and prosecuted by federal prosecutors in federal courts.
Violent crimes are taken very seriously in the federal system. If you are charged in federal court with a violent crime, the law presumes no bail, and it becomes your burden to show why the court should grant you a bond. Sentences imposed for federal violent crimes are among the highest in the federal system. Many federal violent crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences, maximum sentences of up to life in prison, and some are even death penalty eligible. Unfortunately, federal conviction rates are high. According to DOJ Statistics, the 2015 federal violent crime conviction rate was 92% (Table 3A, in 2015 - 13,214 people were indicted for violent federal crimes, and of the 12,758 who completed their cases that year, 11,780 were found guilty). It is no wonder why those accused of federal violent crimes often lose hope, feeling a fair trial is impossible, and that conviction and sentencing are inevitable.
Why Hire the Stracci Law Group?
Being indicted for a federal violent crime 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 defense team.
The Stracci Law Group will work quickly, efficiently, and strategically to defend your case and preserve your future. When you hire the Stracci Law Group, you get a team of experienced federal criminal defense attorneys with a long history of defending a wide variety of federal violent crimes, including Murder, Hobbs Act Robbery and Extortion, Bank Robbery, Burglary, and Larceny, Kidnapping, Carjacking, and Threats cases. The Stracci Law Group works together to protect your future. Contact the Stracci Criminal Defense Team today at (219) 525-1000.
What Types of Federal Violent Crimes does the Stracci Law Group Defend?
- Hobbs Act Robbery and Extortion
- Bank Robberies, Burglaries, and Larcenies
- Hostage Taking
How can Murder be a Federal Offense?
Typically murder charges are prosecuted by state prosecutors in state court, but in some cases, the federal government prosecutes murders in federal court. Some become federal cases because of the position held by the deceased, for instance, the murder of a high-ranking federal government or foreign official. Others become federal cases because the deceased was killed while engaged in official government duties or because the offense occurred on federal property. However, the vast majority of federal murder cases are those in which a death occurred the during the commission of another federal felony offense:
- Arson, 18 U.S.C. §844
- Kidnaping, 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
- Drug Trafficking, 21 U.S.C. §848(e)
- 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)
- Transportation of Illegal Aliens, 8 U.S.C. §1324
What are Hobbs Act Robbery and Extortion Crimes?
The Hobbs Act criminalizes obstruction, delay, or impact on commerce by robbery or extortion with the use of actual or threatened violence. The Act was passed in 1946 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. Hobbs Act offenses are proved by showing either robbery or extortion and interference with interstate or foreign commerce. Hobbs Act Robbery and Extortion is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but depending on the circumstances, the penalties may quickly escalate to any term of years up to life in prison and, if resulting in death, by either life in prison or death.
What Makes Bank Robberies, Burglaries, and Larcenies Federal Crimes?
Banks, Credit Union, and Savings and Loan Associations are federal institutions, and they are regulated and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This means that robbing a bank can be a federal crime, and in nearly every case where a firearm is used, it will be prosecuted in federal court.
You don’t need to brandish a firearm to be prosecuted for bank robbery; simply passing a note to a bank teller demanding money will suffice. Even forcing someone to drive to a bank ATM and withdraw funds from their account may constitute bank robbery. The sentence imposed for these crimes depends largely on offense characteristics, for example the use of weapons, amount taken, whether anyone was injured or killed as well as criminal history.
Bank Robbery, 18 U.S.C. §2113(a): The taking by force and violence or by intimidation, from the person or presence of another, any property or money, belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association. Bank Robbery is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Bank Burglary, 18 U.S.C. §2113(a): Entering a bank or a building used in whole or part as a bank, with the intent to commit a felony or any larceny affecting the bank. Bank Burglary is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Bank Larceny, 18 U.S.C. §2113(b): The taking or carrying away money in excess of $1,000 in the care and custody of a bank knowing you are not entitled to it. Bank Larceny is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Armed Bank Robbery, 18 U.S.C. §2113(d): Assaulting a person or placing their life in jeopardy by using a dangerous weapon during the course of a bank robbery, burglary, or larceny. Punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Killing, Accompaniment, 18 U.S.C. §2113(e): Killing or forcing accompaniment during the course of committing or fleeing from a bank robbery, burglary, or larceny. Punishable by not less than 10 years in prison, and if it results in death, life in prison or death.
What is the Difference Between Federal Kidnapping and Hostage Taking?
Federal Kidnapping (taking a person and holding them for ransom or reward) and Federal Hostage Taking (taking a person to force someone else to comply with your directives) are serious crimes with serious consequences. Both carry possible punishments of death.
Kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. §1201: Seizing, confining, abducting, carrying away, and holding for ransom or reward any other person. Not every kidnapping is a federal offense, In order to be a federal crime, the kidnapping must have some federal nexus, like transportation across state lines, or use of the mail, or some other means of interstate commerce to commit or further the offense. While the FBI investigates federal kidnapping crimes, under the “Lindbergh Law” the FBI also has jurisdiction to investigate disappearances and kidnappings involving children.
Kidnapping an adult is punishable by any term of years up to life in prison and, if resulting in death, either life in prison or death. Kidnapping anyone under the age of 18 carries a mandatory minimum 20-year prison term. But see 18 U.S.C. §3559(f)(2); Kidnapping or maiming a child under 18 years of age requires a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence unless a longer mandatory minimum applies.
Receiving Ransom, 18 U.S.C. §1202: It is a federal crime to receive, possess, or dispose of any money or property delivered as ransom in a kidnapping. Receiving Ransom is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Hostage Taking, 18 U.S.C. §1203: Hostage taking, on the other hand, involves detaining a person with the intent to force a third party (for instance, the police) to do or abstain from doing any act as a condition for the release of the person detained. Federal Hostage Taking is punished by any term of years up to life in prison and, if resulting in death, by either life in prison or death.
How Did Carjacking Become a Federal Crime?
Years ago, two men forced a mother out of her car while stopped at a stop sign. As the men drove away, she attempted to rescue her child from the backseat, but her arm was caught in the seat belt. The men sped away, dragging the child to her death. Within months, Congress enacted the carjacking statute to punish and deter violent car thefts. Although it was intended to criminalize a specific type of violent car theft, federal prosecutors now use the carjacking statute to prosecute a wide variety of similarly violent crimes.
The carjacking statute seeks 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. 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.
The Supreme Court has found that the carjacking statute defines three crimes: (1) the forceful taking of a vehicle, (2) the forceful taking of a vehicle that results in serious bodily injury, and (3) the forceful taking of a vehicle that results in death. Jones v. United States, 526 U.S. 227, 251-52 (1999). When the federal government prosecutes carjacking resulting in injury or death, it must plead those facts in its indictment.
What is the Big Deal About Threats?
In criminal law, a threat is an expression of an intention to do something bad. Federal law punishes a variety of 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 criminal 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 for the purpose of issuing a threat or with the knowledge it would be viewed as a threat.
Traveling to Commit Threats/Stalking:
- Under 18 U.S.C. §2261A, traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to do harm which results in conduct that places a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury or causes substantial emotional distress; or using a means of interstate commerce like mail, an interactive computer service, or email with the intent to achieve the same is, depending on the circumstances, punishable by up to 10 or 20 years in prison, or if death results for any term of years up to life in prison.
Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Act (VICAR). While acts of violence may be investigated and prosecuted by the federal government when the activities transgress state lines, federal prosecutors also prosecute violence by fitting the allegations under the RICO and VICAR Acts:
- RICO Conspiracies: Under RICO, it is a federal crime to participate in or make money from a pattern of racketeering (organized crime). Although originally intended to combat crime syndicates like the Mafia, federal prosecutors now use RICO to prosecute members of other organized groups like businesses that commit fraud and street gangs who engage in a wide variety of federal crimes. RICO allows the federal government to prosecute all of an organization’s different crimes, together, in a single prosecution. As a result, RICO cases usually bring a large number of defendants under a single indictment. You will need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to distinguish you from that group.
In order to prosecute RICO violations, federal prosecutors must prove that members of a criminal enterprise (e.g. street gang) engaged in a pattern of racketeering (specified ongoing criminal activity) that had an effect on interstate commerce.
Criminal Enterprise: Any group with an organizational structure with one or more decision-makers whose members work together over time. The enterprise can have either an illegal or a legal purpose.
Pattern of Racketeering: The members of the criminal enterprise must have engaged in an ongoing scheme of criminal activity; thus at least two predicate crimes (for instance, drug trafficking, murder, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, bribery, fraud, money laundering, kidnapping) must have been committed by members.
Effect on Interstate Commerce: Anything that has any effect on commerce between different states; however virtually any economic activity meets this standard.
RICO is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but depending on the predicate offenses, the penalties may quickly escalate.
- VICAR Conspiracies: Under VICAR, it is a federal crime to commit a crime of violence in aid of racketeering. In order to prosecute VICAR violations, federal prosecutors must prove that an enterprise affecting interstate commerce existed, the enterprise engaged in racketeering activity, and that a member of the enterprise committed a crime of violence in order to gain entry to, maintain, or increase his position in the enterprise.
Crime of Violence: Murder, kidnapping, maiming, assaulting with a dangerous weapon, committing assaults resulting in serious bodily injury, or threatening to commit a crime of violence against any individual in violation of either state or federal law.
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 of prison up to life in prison, and for murder allegations, the penalties escalate to any term of years up to life in prison or death.
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