April 21, 2020 By Paul Wallin

3 Ways Murder Becomes a Federal Crime

Murder is a crime specified under Federal statute, at 18 U.S.C. § 1111, as well as the California Penal Code, 187(a) PC. Typically, murders committed in California are prosecuted by the state, but there are three categories of notable exceptions. A murder may be prosecuted as a Federal crime if:

  1. The murder falls under the crimes enumerated under 18 U.S.C. Chapter 51 Homicide (§§ 1111-1122)
  2. The murder is a crime listed under any other section of 18 U.S.C.
  3. The murder occurred on Federal property

18 U.S.C. Chapter 51 – Homicide

[ File # csp10790214, License # 2280138 ]
Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php)
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / dmitrimaruta
Homicide, the killing of a person by another person, under the Federal code, includes murder and manslaughter offenses. Specific instances where murder may be charged federally include:

  • §1111. A killing that occurs during the course of a bank robbery: This is broadly construed to include any behavior connected to the robbery, such as may occur in fleeing the scene.
  • §1114. Protection of officers and employees of the United States: Included are government employees of any branch of government and uniformed service members while in performance of official duties plus any person assisting an employee in an official duty.
  • §1115. Misconduct or neglect of ship officers: Captains, pilots or officers may be charged with murder if their negligence or inattentiveness results in the death of another.
  • §1116. Murder or manslaughter of foreign officials, official guests, or internationally protected persons
  • §1118. Murder by a Federal prisoner: This refers to individuals confined to a Federal correctional institution.
  • §1120. Murder by escaped prisoners: The offender must have escaped from incarceration in a Federal correctional institution while under a sentence of life imprisonment.
  • §1121. Killing persons aiding Federal investigations or State correctional officers.
  • §1122. Protection against human immunodeficiency virus: A person who receives actual knowledge of testing positive for HIV may be prosecuted for murder if they knowingly donate or sell their blood, semen, organs, tissue or other body fluids.

Other Sections of 18 U.S.C.

Murder may also be charged as a Federal crime under the following code sections:

  • §115(b) (3). Influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a Federal official by threatening or injuring a family member: Just as Federal officials are protected under §1114, so, too, are their families.
  • §351. Congressional, Cabinet, and Supreme Court assassination, assault, and kidnapping. This refers to elected or appointed officials and includes the President and Vice-President.
  • §1512. Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.
  • §1513. Retaliating against a witness, victim, or informant.
  • §1958. Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
  • §2251. Sexual exploitation of children: A federal charge may be filed if the death was related to rape or in the course of some other sexual crime against a child.
  • §2280. Violence against maritime navigation: This applies to a murder committed in an act that affects the safe travel of a ship in United States waters or to a United States National wherever the ship may be. Typically, this is used in piracy cases.
  • §36, §924 involve murder related to drug trafficking: Any murder related in any manner to the drug trade often will involve federal prosecution.

Murder on Federal property

If a murder occurs on property owned or administered directly by the federal government or that is under federal authority, federal prosecution is likely. Examples include Indian reservations, National Parks, federal courthouses, and federal prisons. Also included are locations over which the federal government has temporary authority, such as an ocean-going vessel when at sea or a commercial airplane when in flight.

Jurisdiction and double jeopardy

A single incident, based on all the facts and circumstances, may violate either state law or federal law or in some instances both state and federal law. Where there is an overlap of the two, it is considered concurrent jurisdiction. For example, murder on an Indian reservation or within a National Park could trigger both a state and federal prosecution. Despite what may appear to violate the Fifth Amendment prohibition ban on a person being prosecuted twice for the same crime, the law permits both prosecutions to proceed. Double jeopardy only applies to the same sovereignty, or government. Since the federal government and California are separate sovereignties, each may pursue individual actions.

Contact an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today

Federal prosecutions are handled differently than those at the state level. Wallin & Klarich have more than 40 years of experience seeking acquittals, working to reduce charges, or otherwise achieving the best results possible in your federal court case. If you have been arrested or are under investigation for a federal crime, contact us today. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 386-7269 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

Practice area

  • Contact Us Now

    If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, now is the time to contact us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

SCHEDULE YOUR free consultation

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, this is the time to contact us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.