Defendants under federal religious property damage law face serious consequences that can include fines or prison time. To make sure that you are not convicted of a crime you did not commit, contact a federal crime lawyer to help you reduce or even dismiss your charges.

Being Accused of a Federal Offense

Most crimes are prosecuted at the state level, leading many Florida residents to assume that this also applies to cases involving the destruction of property. While this is true for most buildings, damage to a religious structure falls under federal law, with far more serious consequences for defendants, as federal crimes tend to be prosecuted. more aggressively, causing harsher sentences than their state counterparts. For example, those convicted of damaging a religious institution face up to one year in prison; however, these penalties can be exacerbated if someone was injured while the offense took place.

Elements of an Offense

Under federal law, anyone who intentionally damages, deforms, or destroys religious property or attempts to do so can be fined and sentenced to one year in prison. However, a defendant can only be convicted of this crime if the prosecution is able to prove that the damage was inflicted solely because of the religious nature of the property and also that the offense affected interstate commerce. The property in question must also fall under the definition of the “religious property” law, which includes churches, mosques, synagogues, religious cemeteries or other religious properties, as well as accessories and objects contained within a place of worship.

Possible Penalties

A violation of this law is generally considered a misdemeanor, although it can become a serious crime if the prosecution is able to prove that one of the following aggravating factors exists:

  • Bodily harm;
  • Use of a dangerous weapon;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Aggravated sexual abuse;
  • Death;
  • Attempted murder.

In these cases, the prosecution can seek a sentence of more than one year in prison. For example, if a person is accused of using, attempting to use, or threatening to use a dangerous weapon during the conduct of the offense, he or she could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. This is also true if the defendant used explosives or fire to damage the structure in question.

Exceptions

It is important to note that a person cannot be prosecuted for this crime without the written certification of the Attorney General stating that the process is not only in the public interest, but is also necessary to guarantee justice. Finally, the accused cannot be prosecuted or punished for this crime unless they are charged within seven years after the date of the alleged offense.

Call today to learn more about your charges.

If you have been accused of deforming or damaging religious property, you may face federal charges, so it is especially important that you contact an attorney who can help you and also explain your legal options. Call Miami Federal Crime Specialist Attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, PA at (305) 670-9919 for more information.