What Are Considered A Violent Federal Crimes?
Most acts of violence are charged and prosecuted under state law. However, federal law will govern a violent act committed in certain locations like an international airport or the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” if it is connected to interstate commerce, or associated with another federal offense. For example, federal jurisdiction applies to assault and murder while traveling on the ocean or in flight above it, or if committed in association with a federal drug offense.
In addition to murder and assault, the U.S. Department of Justice considers many firearms violations to be violent federal crimes, even though firearms are not used. Such violations are extensive and include:
- A “straw purchase” of firearms, where the actual buyer of the gun uses another person to pass the required background check and purchase the firearm or makes any other false statement on the application to obtain a firearm.
- Sale, transfer, or possession of a machine gun, to include an AR-15 modified to have full-automatic capability (a.k.a. “auto sear”).
- Sale, transfer, or unlicensed transport in interstate or foreign commerce any destructive device (bomb, missile, grenade etc.), machinegun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle.
- Possession of a firearm or ammunition by a convicted felon, fugitive, drug user, alien, person subject to domestic violence restraining order, person convicted of domestic violence, a minor under the age of 18 for the purchase of a shotgun or rifle, a person under the age of 21 for the purchase of firearm other than shotgun or rifle, or veteran dishonorably discharged from the military.
- Possession, storage, sale etc. of any stolen firearm or ammunition transported in interstate or foreign commerce at any time.
Unlicensed importation, production, or transactions in firearms across state lines.
- Sale of unserialized and untraceable firearms in kits that can assembled at home (a.k.a. “ghost guns” and “ghost gun kits”), or selling gun kits without a license, required background checks, serial numbers, and record keeping. (Effective August 24, 2022.)
What is the punishment for violent federal crimes?
Most violent federal crimes are felonies punishable with high fines and lengthy prison sentences. Very few are misdemeanors. For example:
- 18 U.S. Code § 36 – Drive-by shooting: Firing a weapon into a group of two or more people while involved in a major drug offense is punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 25 years.
- 18 U.S. Code § 37 – Violence at international airports that causes or is likely to cause serious bodily injury, death, or destruction of facilities or aircraft is punishable by fine and imprisonment up to 20 years.
- 18 U.S. Code § 111 – Assaulting, resisting, or impeding any officer or employee of the U.S. Government (or their assistants) while performing their official duties is punishable up to one year in prison if the officer or employee is placed in fear of immediate physical contact, and 8 years in prison if physical contact results.
- 18 U.S. Code § 113 – Assaults within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States: Placing a person in fear of immediate physical contact is punishable up to 6 months in prison, one year if the person is under 16, up to 10 years if substantial or serious bodily injury results, and 20 years if the assault is done with intent to commit murder.
- 18 U.S. Code § 924 – Firearms violations are punishable by fine and imprisonment that ranges from up to one year for license violations and up to 30 years for a prohibited person possessing a machinegun.
- 18 U.S. Code § 1111 – Murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States: First degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment. This includes premeditated killing or committed in perpetration of another felony, or part of pattern child abuse or torture. Second degree murder (any other type of murder) is punishable up to life in prison.
- 18 U.S. Code § 2119 – Carjacking a vehicle (that has been transported in interstate commerce) with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm is punishable up to 15 years in prison, 25 years if serious bodily injury results, or death if death results.