Destroying Protected Vehicles
Most vehicle-related crimes, such as theft or fraud fall under the purview of state courts. There are, however, a few exceptions to this general rule, one of which is the offense of destroying vehicles involved in interstate commerce. In these cases, a person can be charged with a federal offense, and if convicted, could face imprisonment in a federal prison for up to 20 years. With so much at stake, it is critical for defendants who have been charged with this, or another federal crime, to consult with an experienced federal crime lawyer who can help them formulate a strong defense.
Elements of the Offense
Many people are surprised to learn that a vehicle-related crime can be charged in federal court. The reality is that while this is possible, it is limited to very specific circumstances. For instance, a person can only be convicted of the destruction of a vehicle if a person destroys, tampers with, disables, or places a destructive substance in or near a vehicle and do so not only with the intent of destroying the vehicle, but also of endangering another person who he or she believes is on board. Furthermore, the vehicle must be used, operated, or employed in interstate commerce, namely for commercial purposes to transport people or property. According to federal courts, proving that a vehicle is used by a company that is engaged in interstate commerce is enough to satisfy this requirement, so prosecutors do not need to prove that the vehicle actually travelled in interstate commerce to obtain a conviction.
What qualifies as an explosive substance is broadly interpreted as any flammable material or chemical, or combustible or corrosive substance. If a substance found at the scene of an alleged crime does not meet this standard, the vehicle in question was not intended for interstate commerce, or the accused did not intend to endanger another person by his or her actions, a defendant could escape conviction for this serious federal offense. Unfortunately, proof that a person was not actually on board at the time of the alleged incident is not a complete defense to this type of charge, as an amendment passed by Congress in 1984 broadened this statute to cover cargo, as well as passengers, as long as it was being transported across state lines.
Penalties for Conviction
In most cases, first time offenders who are convicted of this crime face fines and imprisonment for up to 20 years. However, in 1996, Congress enhanced the penalties in cases where the vehicle destroyed was carrying high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel at the time of the offense. In these situations, defendants face at least 30 years imprisonment.
Call Today to Begin Planning Your Defense
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you need the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney who can give you the best possible chance of disputing your charges. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 today.