Is Insurrection a Crime?
Yes. United States Code Title 18 address Crimes and Criminal Procedure, and § 2383 deals with insurrection directly. According to 18 U.S. Code § 2383, it is illegal to incite, assist with, or participate in a rebellion or insurrection against U.S. laws and authority.
The punishment for insurrection can include a fine, up to 10 years in federal prison, and ineligibility for public office.
What About Protests
Although peaceful protests are legal in the United States and protected by the Constitution, violence and destruction are not. Rebellion and insurrection apply when participants destroy government property or assault officers of the state. These actions are considered crimes against the United States and its Constitution.
The Office of the Attorney General is the only body that can bring insurrection and rebellion charges, but these charges are extremely rare. Usually, the government prioritizes its citizens’ First Amendment right to free speech. Still, some actions may result in charges.
The Storming of the Capitol
For example, consider the events at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. A violent mob stormed a government building in an attempt to disrupt Congress’ formal certification of election results. Participants in this infamous event smashed windows, destroyed government property, and behaved violently towards police and federal officials. Five people died, including one Capitol police officer.
According to the FBI, more than 200 case files have been opened and more than 100 arrests have been made. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia said officials are looking at “significant felony cases” tied to sedition and conspiracy.
Sedition and Conspiracy
Insurrection refers specifically to acts of violence, but it is far from the only charge that could apply to those who stormed the Capitol in 2021. Seditious conspiracy, for instance, is an effort to overthrow the U.S. government, and the punishment includes up to 20 years in prison. Individuals can be charged with sedition and conspiracy even if they never carry out the violence they planned.
Other current and potential charges tied to the storming of the Capitol include:
- Trespassing in a federal building
- Violent entry and disorderly conduct
- Obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder
- Unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds
- Theft of public money, property, or records
As Inauguration Dasy grows nearer, and the United States braces for more violence, anyone who wishes to protest should keep peace – and local, state, and federal laws – in mind. The nation is on high alert, which means even talking about violent actions in a way that echoes a plan could result in federal charges.
Understanding Your Rights
The First Amendment gives you the right to freedom of speech, but no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, there are some lines you cannot legally cross. That being said, if you are charged with a federal crime, you may be facing severe consequences, and you need to understand your rights as they apply to your particular situation.
At Foley Griffin, we offer free consultations with our criminal defense lawyers. Discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney at (888) 966-8480 or contact us online to put more than 75 years of combined experience on your side.