Playing the lottery, such as Powerball, is widespread. Still, there are restrictions on specific actions, such as broadcasting lottery information, importing lottery tickets, mailing lottery tickets, and participation by financial institutions.
Lotteries are common in most states, but local state laws highly regulate them. Further, any lotteries-related criminal conduct is typically handled in local state courts. Still, it can be prosecuted at the federal level when unauthorized lottery tickets cross state or international boundaries.
Title 18 U.S.C. 1301 is the federal law that prosecutors can use if you import lottery tickets into the United States or across state lines if the federal or state government has not authorized it. Simply put, violating the lottery rules and regulations could lead to federal criminal charges.
18 U.S.C. 1301 says, “Whoever brings into the United States for the purpose of disposing of the same, or knowingly deposits with any express company or other common carrier, or carries in interstate or foreign commerce any paper, certificate, or instrument purporting to be or to represent a ticket, chance, share, or interest in or dependent upon the event of a lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme, offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance, or any advertisement of, or list of the prizes drawn or awarded by means of, any such lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme; or, being engaged in the business of procuring for a person in 1 State such a ticket, chance, share, or interest in a lottery, gift, enterprise by another state, shall be….”
Suppose you are under investigation related to alleged criminal behavior related to the lottery. You should consult a federal criminal defense lawyer to review the details of that case. If convicted, you face up to two years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Let's take a closer look at this law below.
What Does the Law Say?
The federal statute of 18 U.S.C. 1301 importing or transporting lottery tickets makes any of the following acts a federal offense:
- Bring unauthorized tickets for a lottery or another scheme into the United States to distribute them;
- Using a common carrier, such as FedEx or UPS, to send unauthorized lottery tickets in interstate or foreign commerce, meaning across state lines or international borders, or use them to take or receive unauthorized advertisements for a lottery;
- Purchase lottery tickets in one state for somebody who is out-of-state that is not authorized to participate in that lottery unless there is an agreement;
- Pay for lottery tickets through interstate or foreign commerce when your state doesn't authorize you to participate.
Other things to know about this law:
- A lottery ticket can be any paper or instrument purporting to represent a ticket, chance, or interest upon the event of a lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme;
- “Lottery” means the pooling of proceeds derived from the sale of tickets or chances and allotting those proceeds or parts by chance to one or more chance takers or ticket purchasers;
- “Lottery” does not include the placing or accepting of bets or wagers on sporting events or contests;
- A “not-for-profit organization” is any organization that would qualify as tax-exempt under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
- A conviction for 18 U.S.C. 1301 Importing or transporting unauthorized lottery tickets is a Class E felony with up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 61 Lotteries has numerous federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1301 importing or transporting lottery, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1302 Mailing lottery tickets or related matters prohibits knowingly mailing or delivering any letter, package, or postcard contacting a lottery ticket or a ticket for a game of chance or unauthorized similar scheme. It also makes it a crime to transmit via mail any checks or other money to obtain lottery tickets and prohibits mailing publications that contain advertisements for lotteries or games of chance;
- 18 U.S.C. 1303 Postmaster or employee as lottery agent. This law prohibits any postmaster or post office employee from acting as an agent for a lottery, selling lottery tickets, knowingly delivering lottery material sent through the mail;
- 18 U.S.C. 1304 Broadcasting lottery information law prohibits any United States licensed radio or TV station from broadcasting lottery or games of chance. Each day of broadcasting is a separate offense;
- 18 U.S.C. 1305 Fishing contest law does not apply under this statute where prizes are awarded for size, weight, or quality of fish caught in any recreational event;
- 18 U.S.C. 1306 Participation by financial institutions law imposes penalties for the knowing violation of the Federal Reserve Act and related statutes. A conviction carries up to one year in federal prison;
- 18 U.S.C. 1307 Exceptions related to specific advertisements and other information and State-conducted lotteries has several exceptions to the other statutes prohibiting distributing lottery tickets or games of chance;
- 18 U.S.C. 1308 Limitation of applicability explains other circumstances where the rules do not apply.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1301?
Suppose you have been accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 1301 importing or transporting lottery tickets law. In that case, our federal criminal defense attorneys can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Maybe you could argue that you didn't know the tickets were unauthorized. Federal prosecutors must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction.
These elements include knowingly importing or transporting unauthorized lottery tickets and sending payment across state lines. If we prove that you did not reasonably know that you were not allowed to play the lottery out of state, you have a better chance of avoiding a conviction.
Maybe we can argue that lottery tickets are legal in your state. Perhaps we can say that the two states agree that lottery tickets could be bought and sold across their state borders.
Maybe we can argue that the lottery tickets are licensed within a state, and you were only broadcasting information related to that lottery.
Maybe we can negotiate a favorable plea agreement if your guilt is not in doubt to avoid any time in federal prison. You can contact our law firm for a free case consultation case evaluation by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.