What happens if you are accused of a terrorist crime?
Terrorism refers to a violent or destructive act that affects a wide group, not just an individual. It occurs when someone attempts to intimidate society in general or a broad class of people. If a crime is judged and act of terrorism, that magnifies the penalty. Anyone convicted of a class B felony that is judged to be a terrorist act will be sentenced under the rules of a class A-1 felon.
Terrorism is an element that magnifies punishment:
For instance, if someone commits a second degree kidnapping or first degree manslaughter, he or she will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If you are accused of a terrorist act you need the best possible legal defense, first to argue against the initial crime then against the terrorism interpretation.
You may never have committed any crime, but if the court judges you have materially aided the person who committed the crime judged to be a terrorist act, if you aided terrorism in any way, you could get a severe penalty, up to 15 years in prison. If you are suspected of terrorism or aiding terrorism, you need solid legal defense to defend you in both federal and state courts.
When you are under suspicion of a serious crime, especially one related to terrorism, law enforcement or the FBI may try to undermine your legal right to privacy to conduct their investigations. You will need a defense attorney to protect you against civil rights violations.
What does the prosecution have to prove to make a terrorism case?
When people are accused of terrorism, evidence is often gathered through the use of intelligence, informers or undercover operatives. The evidence, gathered in this way has to be presented to the court to prove or demonstrate the terrorist motive. Many courts find this kind of evidence challenging because they have to balance the need to sentence terrorists with the need to protect civil rights. Issues arise about handling privileged or classified information, the protection of witnesses, and the degree of cooperation between courts and law-enforcement and intelligence communities. The defense attorney is in the midst of these complex issues and has to protect the interests of the accused.
Terrorism is different from other crimes. Most crimes refer to the act itself. In most crimes, the intent of the person carrying out the act may affect what defense is available or the severity of the punishment. For terrorist crimes the intent of the person involved is critical to the definition of the crime. Ordinary crimes become terrorism because of the intent of the criminal, when the crime is intended to terrorize or intimidate civilians or government.
The condition of the courts:
Intent is difficult to prove. The burden for proving intent normally falls on the prosecution. However, in the case of terrorism charges, the courts may allow prosecutors to base their cases on the condition that an act “appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce…” without additional evidence. Using this special exception, a whole range of actions have been prosecuted as acts of terrorism.
- Financial transactions with countries supporting international terrorism.
- Bombings of public places, transportation, or government facilities.
- Possession, acquisition, or use of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft.
- Production or acquisition of devices that disperse radiation.
- Conspiracy regarding weapons of mass destruction.
- Harboring terrorists or providing them with material support.
The courts tend to be sympathetic to prosecutors when it comes to terrorism charges. Terrorism defendants actually face trial more often than other criminals. Terrorists are sentenced to longer sentences.
In defending cases of terrorism, since evidence of intend is often more vague and tenuous than the prosecution wants it to be, defense attorneys may use a “politicized” defense, portraying the prosecution’s case as something akin to a witch hunt. Often the defense is focused on the prosecution’s efforts to link the defendant with politically or socially active groups. They make take the strategy of questioning those associations.
The defense of those accused of terrorism is complex and difficult in the current atmosphere where courts are pressing for prosecutions and loosening previous standards of evidence in their favor.
Segal Defense, P.A will tailor your defense to address your specific facts. To get the best possible outcome in your case. Please contact us to learn more.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.