18 U.S.C. § 1752 - Restricted Building or Grounds

The United States government has several statutes that make trespassing on federal property a crime. However, one of these laws was placed in the national spotlight after the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, where thousands of President Donald Trump supporters protested that the election was rigged.

In an attempt to disrupt Congress' certification of Joseph Biden as the duly elected President, a group of angry Trump supporters breached the barriers around the Capitol, forcing their way inside and causing numerous injuries and damage.

18 U.S.C. § 1752 - Restricted Building or Grounds
It's a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. 1752 to trespass on a restricted building or grounds.

Afterward, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI started identifying and executing arrests for hundreds of people involved in the riots and committed criminal actions. Many revealed their identities by posting pictures of themselves on social media engaged in criminal activities.

Title 18 U.S.C. 1752 makes it a federal crime to trespass on a restricted building or grounds. Even though taxpayers pay the cost of the federal buildings, the government has to have the ability to control who can enter the grounds for safety reasons.

A closely related federal law is 18 U.S.C. 1751 Presidential and Presidential staff assassination, kidnapping, and assault; penalties.

Simply put, to maintain security, the government can legally put some regulations for citizens on public grounds, including the White House and the United States Capitol Building.

18 U.S. Code 1752 says, “(a) Whoever (1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; (2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions….”

Let's review this federal statute, the penalties if convicted, and the best legal defenses to fight the charges below.

What Is a Restricted Building or Grounds?

As noted, it's a crime to enter any federal property without permissions, called “trespassing.” 18 U.S.C. 1752(c) defines a restricted building or grounds as any posted or cordoned-off area, such as the following locations:

  • The White House and the Vice President's official residents.
  • The respective grounds around the White House;
  • Anywhere the President or others are under Secret Service protection;
  • Anywhere that is restricted for a special event of national significance.

What Does the Law Say?

A “restricted buildings and grounds” is described as any posted or cordoned-off area, such as the White House grounds, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(c)(1)(A).

Another restricted area is the buildings or grounds where the President and others are protected by the Secret Service, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(c)(1)(B).

It also includes areas restricted due to an event designated as a special event of national significance, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(c)(1)(C). 

Further, Title 18 U.S.C. 1752 describes other conduct that would be considered trespassing, such as any of the following:

  • Knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without permission, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1);
  • When someone commits physical violence against a person or property on restricted grounds, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(4); or
  • When someone flies an unmanned aircraft (drone) into a restricted building or grounds area, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(5).
  • When someone intentionally acts in a disorderly or disruptive manner to interfere with official Government business;
  • When somebody deliberately blocks an entrance or exit to a restricted building or grounds to impede Government business;

This federal statute also considers attempting or conspiring to commit any of these behaviors the same crime as succeeding.

What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 1752?

Suppose you are convicted of violating this law. In that case, you face harsh penalties, such as up to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

However, the exact penalties for violating this federal law depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the crime and the federal sentencing guidelines, such as the following:

  • For general incidents of trespassing on the restricted property, the case will be filed as a misdemeanor which carries up to one year in jail as defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(b)(2).
  • Suppose you carried or used a deadly weapon during the trespassing or someone sustained a significant bodily injury due to the incident. In that case, it is a felony offense that carries up to 10 years in prison as defined under 18 U.S.C. 1752(b)(1)(A).

What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1752?

Suppose you have been accused of trespassing under federal law. In that case, our federal criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome.

Defenses for Federal Trespassing
Contact our federal defense attorneys for help.

Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge. In other words, we can say that you didn't know the property was restricted.

To convict you of trespassing on federally restricted property, the prosecutor has to prove that you knew, or should have known, that the property was off-limits.

Perhaps we can argue that you believed you were authorized to be on the property. In that case, you may be able to get the charges dismissed.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that the government can impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on constitutionally protected activity. 

Lawful protestors can gather near government buildings for peaceful and orderly demonstrations if they don't interfere with governmental activity.  Maybe we can argue that your behavior was peaceful, and you did not riot or engage in illegal activity.

Perhaps we can negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the federal prosecutor if guilt is not in doubt. We offer a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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