Is Looting a Federal Offense?

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyer, IL hate crime lawyerProtests have erupted all over the country with protesters calling for equality after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who was killed while in police custody. Although many of the protests have remained peaceful, looting has also occurred in many cities. Buildings have been burned down, storefronts have been vandalized, and mass theft has occurred. Protesters and looters alike have both been arrested with many asking whether looting is a federal crime. The answer to that question is that it depends on the facts of a specific case. While some of the crimes that result from looting may be charged as a federal offense, many people are also criticizing law enforcement for overcharging behavior that otherwise would not be considered federal jurisdiction.

Offenses Associated with Looting

Looting in and of itself is not a criminal term, but a person may be charged with a specific act that results from looting. The most common offenses associated with looting include:

  • Possession of destructive devices
  • Unregistered firearms
  • Interstate commerce violations
  • Malicious mischief
  • Arson
  • Destruction of government property

Many of these offenses have both federal and state definitions, which is why so many are arguing that the individuals charged with these offenses should be charged at the state level and not the federal. There are instances, however, in which an offense may move into federal jurisdiction.

When Does a Crime Become a Federal Offense?

Differentiating between state and federal crimes is often complicated. This is particularly true in terms of looting because there are so many different offenses, and different situations, that could apply. The three main scenarios that could result in a looting offense becoming a federal crime include when:

  • There is damage to federal government property: Any crime that involves property of the federal government can be charged as a federal offense. When damage, such as arson, is done to the property, or an offense is committed on federal property, such as theft, these offenses may be charged on the federal level.
  • A federal agent made the arrest: Any time a federal agent makes an arrest, the crime can be charged as a federal offense. For example, if an agent for the Department of Homeland Security arrested someone in connection to looting, the individual may be charged with a federal offense.
  • The circumstances around the arrest are complex: Some criminal cases are simply much more complex than others. When this is the case, federal agents may decide to take the case and it then becomes part of federal jurisdiction.

When any of these situations apply and someone is charged with a federal crime, they are likely facing much more serious consequences than individuals charged with a state crime.

Charged with a Crime? Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help

Federal charges are very serious and as such, a strong defense is needed for them. If you have been charged with a federal offense, our experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel is here to help. Attorney Garfinkel knows the defenses available for federal offenses and will use them effectively to give you the best chance of beating the charges. When you need solid legal advice, call us at 312-270-0999 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

Source:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921

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