Common Federal Charges in the Aftermath of the January 6th Capitol Riot

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Federal

As a criminal defense attorney representing those charged with offenses related to the January 6th riots, it is crucial to stay abreast of the legal developments in this area. This includes becoming familiar with the most commonly charged crimes faced by those involved. Federal prosecutors have vigorously pursued January 6th participants, using all of the legal tools at their disposal to obtain convictions.  Below are the most common criminal charges brought against the January 5th participants, and the legal implications for those accused.

18 U.S.C. § 1752 – Unlawful Entry or Remaining in Restricted Building or Grounds

One of the most commonly charged crimes against those present at the Capitol on January 6th, is trespassing on restricted buildings or grounds under 18 U.S.C. § 1752. This statute makes it a federal offense to knowingly enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. The Capitol building and its grounds are considered restricted areas, especially during the certification of the electoral college results on January 6th.Possible defenses may involve challenging the prosecution’s evidence regarding the defendant’s intent and knowledge of restricted areas. Factors like signage, barriers, and the defendant’s state of mind at the time of entry, are all relevant. Establishing misunderstandings or lack of awareness regarding the restricted status of the area might also be part of the defense strategy.

Beyond unlawful entry, some defendants are charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1752 for engaging in acts of physical violence on Capitol grounds. Anyone accused of engaging in acts of violence, such as assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees of the United States in the performance of their official duties face more serious charges under this statute.

Defendants may raise defenses based on self-defense or lack of intent to commit violence. It is crucial for defense attorneys to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding each defendant’s actions to build a strong case.

18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3) – Conspiracy to Overthrow the Government

One of the most serious charges faced by many January 6th rioters is conspiracy to overthrow the government under 18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3). This statute criminalizes conspiracies to overthrow, put down, or destroy by force the government of the United States or to levy war against the United States. Prosecutors must prove that defendants entered into an agreement with the intent to use force to hinder, delay, or prevent the execution of any law of the United States.

Conspiracy charges are often complex, as they require establishing an agreement between two or more individuals and an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Challenging the government’s ability to prove the elements of conspiracy is crucial in mounting an effective defense.

18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) – Obstruction of Congress

A critical statute in the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol riot is 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), which pertains to obstruction of Congress. This charge alleges that individuals engaged in corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding any official proceeding, such as the certification of the electoral college results. Defense strategies may involve challenging the intent element, asserting the right to free speech, or questioning the relationship between the defendant’s actions and the alleged obstruction. Convictions under this statute are currently being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling will have a profound effect on the government’s ability to bring charges under this statute against additional January 6th defendants.

18 U.S.C. § 111 – Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers

One of the most serious charges brought against January 6th participants is assault or resistance against law enforcement officers under 18 U.S.C. § 111. This statute encompasses a range of offenses, from simple assault to more severe acts of violence against federal officers.

Because the acts involve violence against law enforcement, defendants convicted under this statute have faced significant prison sentences. Defense strategies may involve challenging the identification of the defendant as the perpetrator, questioning the reasonableness of the force used by law enforcement, or establishing a lack of intent to assault or resist officers.

The aftermath of the January 6th Capitol riot has led to  approximately 1000 convictions and counting. As a criminal defense attorney, navigating this complex legal landscape requires a thorough understanding of the various statutes and a strategic approach to building a defense. Whether facing charges of conspiracy, unlawful entry, or assault against law enforcement officers, each case requires a thorough review of the evidence and a specifically tailored defense strategy. Because judges have been inclined to hand down lengthy prison sentences in these cases, it is essential for defense attorneys to advocate vigorously for their clients and ensure that they are treated fairly and justly.

Joshep S.

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Martindale Hubbell Joseph Scrofano 2018
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