Federal Crimes Blog

18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Aug 14, 2023

The Constitution protects peaceful protests in the United States, but violence and property destruction are illegal. Title 18 U.S. Code 2383 rebellion and insurrection charges at the federal level could be charged when perpetrators destroy government property or assault public officers. Simply put, it's considered a crime against the United States.

The Attorney General could file insurrection and rebellion charges, but you should know that prosecution under this specific federal statute is rare. Still, there are some situations where rebellion charges can be pursued.

For instance, the United States Capitol building events on January 6, 2021, where people stormed a government building to disrupt the formal certification of election results.

Participants smashed windows, destroyed government property, and behaved violently toward police and federal officials, and five people were killed, including a Capitol police officer.

Other possible federal charges connected to the Capitol incident include trespassing on restricted buildings or grounds, disorderly conduct, and obstructing law enforcement. 

18 U.S.C. 2383 says, “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Acts of rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. government are considered severe federal offenses. This federal statute makes it illegal to incite, assist with, or participate in a rebellion or insurrection against our laws and authority.  The government makes it a priority to protect the First Amendment right to free speech. Let's review this federal law further below.

Other Possible Charges from Capital Incident

The term “insurrection” refers to acts of violence, but it's not the only federal charge that could be filed in connection to the Capitol incident in 2021. Seditious conspiracy means any effort to overthrow the United States government.

You could be charged with sedition and conspiracy even if you never did the planned violence. There are other possible charges related to the storming of the Capitol, such as the following:

  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Violent entry;
  • Trespassing;
  • Obstructing a law enforcement officer;
  • Unlawful entry of restricted buildings;
  • Theft of public money, property, or records

Rebellion or insurrection is a federal law that prohibits inciting, engaging in, or giving aid and comfort to any rebellion against the authority of the United States. As noted, while acts of rebellion and insurrection are uncommon, other crimes related to the riots are more frequently charged.

What Is Insurrection and Rebellion?

The term "insurrection" is generally described as a violent uprising or organized resistance against the government or its regulations.

18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or Insurrection
Rebellion and insurrection charges can be filed if you destroy property to overthrow the government.

It usually involves acts intended to overthrow, disrupt, or challenge the authority of the United States or impede federal law enforcement.

The term "rebellion" is generally described as an organized, armed, violent resistance or opposition to established government authority or its laws.

Rebellion is often a broader and more coordinated effort than insurrection, which is focused on overthrowing the existing governmental structure.

To convict you of violating U.S.C. 2383, federal prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all the elements of the crime, including that you did all of the following:

  • Knowingly incited, engaged. or gave aid and comfort to a rebellion or insurrection;
  • The rebellion was against the authority of the United States or its laws;
  • The illegal actions were willful and intentional.

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities have several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 2383 rebellion or insurrection, such as the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 2381 - Treason;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2382 - Misprision of treason;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2384 - Seditious conspiracy;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2385 - Advocating the overthrow of Government;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2386 - Registration of certain organizations;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2387 - Activities affecting armed forces generally;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2388 - Activities affecting armed forces during war;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2389 - Recruiting for service against the United States;
  • 18 U.S.C. 2390 - Enlistment to serve against the United States;
  • 40 U.S.C. 5104 - Unlawful activities.

Notably, 18 U.S. Code 2384 Seditious Conspiracy law says, “If two or more persons in any jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall….”

What Are the Penalties If Convicted?

Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 2383 insurrection or rebellion against the U.S. government. In that case, you are facing the following penalties:

  • Up to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  • A fine of up to $250,000;
  • Permanent disqualification from holding any U.S. government office.

What Are the Best Defenses?

Suppose you are accused of 18 U.S.C. 2383 rebellion or insurrection. In that case, our federal criminal defense attorneys can prepare different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Rebellion or Insurrection
Contact our federal defense attorneys for help.

Federal prosecutors must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you acted willfully and intentionally. Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of intent to incite or engage in a rebellion or insurrection.

Sometimes, you might be protected under the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Thus, maybe we can reasonably argue First Amendment protection, but it does not protect against inciting illegal behavior.

Maybe we can say there was no insurrection or rebellion. Perhaps you violated other federal laws with lesser penalties, but your behavior did not rise to the level of a rebellion.

Maybe we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea agreement when guilt is not in doubt. We offer a free case review to discuss the details and legal options. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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