Threats against President and Vice President 18 U.S. Code § 871
Under federal law, it is a crime to knowingly and willfully threaten the President of the United States. This includes the following acts:
- Sending, mailing any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States.
- This offense also includes threats against the President-elect, the Vice President, Vice-President-elect or another officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States,
Anyone found in violation of the statute shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines set a base offense level of 12 for sending a threatening communication, but when a threat to the President is involved, a 6-level “official victim” enhancement applies. More enhancements can be applied if the offender demonstrated an intent to carry out the threat (6-level enhancement), made more than two threats (2-level enhancement), caused substantial disruption of public, governmental, or business functions or services (4-level enhancement), or created a substantial risk of inciting others to harm federal officials (2-level enhancement). As far as downward departures, there is a 4-level decrease available for a threat involving a “single instance evidencing little or no deliberation”, which would usually apply to spur-of-the-moment verbal threats.
The terms “President-elect” and “Vice President-elect” as used in this section shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained from the results of the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2. The phrase “other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President” as used in this section shall mean the person next in the order of succession to act as President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 19 and 20.
Under Louisiana state law, a comparable offense can be found at La. R.S. 14:122.2 Threatening a Public Official.
Elizabeth B. Carpenter is a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans who defends those accused of federal crimes. If you are in need of legal assistance, contact her office to schedule an appointment.