An insurrection is a violent uprising against an authority and/or the government. The January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. brought insurrection to the forefront of the national discussion. Those involved in the January 6th breach of the Capitol have faced a wide range of criminal charges. More than 700 people have already been charged.
This raises an important question: What federal charges are filed against insurrectionists? The answer depends on many factors, including the specific allegations against an individual defendant. In this article, our Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer provides an overview of some of the possible charges that a defendant may face if they are accused of participating in an insurrection.
An Overview of Four Main Federal Criminal Charges That May Face an Insurrectionist
An insurrectionist can face a number of different federal criminal charges. There are some core criminal charges that are specifically designed to be filed in federal cases involving an alleged criminal insurrection. Here are the four main federal criminal charges that could be filed against a person who is alleged to have participated in an insurrection:
- Rebellion/Insurrection: 18 U.S. Code § 2383 is a part of the federal criminal code that criminalizes the act of a “rebellion” and “insurrection.” Under this statute, it is a federal crime to incite, set foot on, engage in, or abet a rebellion against the United States government. The maximum criminal penalty for a rebellion/insurrection charge under 18 U.S. Code § 2383 is ten years in federal prison. A person convicted of rebellion/insurrection will also be permanently disqualified from holding public office in the United States.
- Seditious Conspiracy: Under 18 U.S. Code § 2384, seditious conspiracy is a federal crime. This offense is closely related to the criminal charge of rebellion/insurrection, but it is not the same thing. Seditious conspiracy occurs when two or more individuals who are in the United States or in any place where U.S. laws apply conspire to overthrow and/or destroy the government. Seditious conspiracy is a serious felony criminal offense that can carry a maximum of 20 years in prison. Seditious conspiracy charges are complicated. There are specific elements that federal prosecutors must establish to prove that the conduct of defendants rises to the level of a seditious conspiracy.
- Rioting: Rioting is another federal criminal charge that can be filed against insurrectionists. Under 18 U.S. Code § 2101, the federal offense of rioting occurs when a person engages in any form of interstate activity—from traveling across state lines to using interstate communication—to incite, organize, aid and abet, or engage in a riot. A conviction on a single count of a federal rioting charge can carry a maximum of five years in prison. If you or your loved one was arrested for rioting, contact an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer for immediate help.
- Treason: The most serious criminal offense that can be charged against an insurrectionist is treason. Under 18 US Code § 2381, treason occurs when a person who owes allegiance to the United States engages in an active attempt to wage war against the United States or give aid and comfort to its enemies. Treason carries the death penalty. It is reserved for a small number of very serious insurrection-related offenses. For reference, no person who was involved in the January 6th breach of the Capitol Building was charged with treason. On the other hand, many have been charged with insurrection, rioting, and/or seditious conspiracy.
Every criminal case is different. In order to obtain a conviction, federal prosecutors have the burden of proving all elements of the selected charge beyond a reasonable doubt. A person charged with an insurrection-related federal criminal offense—from insurrection to seditious conspiracy to rioting—is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to raise a strong defense.
An Insurrectionist Could Face Many Other Criminal Charges
The federal criminal code is complex. Insurrectionists and rioters can be charged with a wide range of other offenses beyond rebellion/insurrection, rioting, seditious conspiracy, and treason. According to reporting from The Washington Post, at least 725 people to date, have been arrested and charged with federal crimes for their role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol Building. A significant number of these defendants faced other federal criminal charges that were based on the specific allegations against them. Some notable examples of federal charges that have been filed against insurrectionists include:
- Making interstate threats
- Knowingly trespassing on federal property
- Violent entry into a federal building
- Disorderly conduct on federal property
- Theft of public property
- Firearms-offense, including possession of an unregistered weapon
- Obstructing law enforcement officers
- Assault against a law enforcement officer
Ultimately, the criminal charges that a person faces will always depend on the specific allegations against them. Most criminal charges in the United States are filed at the state level. However, in an insurrection, riot, or any related matter, federal criminal charges become much more likely. Federal cases are notoriously complicated. Not only do federal prosecutors have additional resources at their disposal, but they tend to be especially aggressive. Defendants should expect federal prosecutors to find every possible charge that they can file. It is crucial that anyone facing a federal charge has a top federal criminal defense lawyer on their side.
Contact Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At The Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman, our Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer is an experienced, aggressive advocate for clients. If you have any specific questions about the federal crimes that an insurrectionist can be charged with, we can help. Call at 312.726.9015 or connect with us online to arrange a completely confidential case evaluation. With a law office in Chicago, we provide federal criminal defense representation throughout Northern Illinois, including in Cook County, DuPage County, Kendall County, Will County, and Lake County.