Threats Against Former Presidents, and Certain Other
Secret Service Protectees
Section 879 of Title 18 prohibits knowing and willful threats to
kidnap, or inflict bodily harm against the following categories of persons
are protected by the United States Secret Service:|
- Members of the immediate family of the President;
- Members of the immediate family of the Vice President;
- Former Presidents;
- Members of the immediate family of a former President;
- Major candidates for the Office of President and Vice President;
- Spouses of major candidates for the Office of President and Vice
within 120 days of the general Presidential election; and
- Immediate families of the President-elect and Vice President-elect.
The purpose of this statute is to prohibit threats against former
Presidents and other Secret Service protectees not covered by the
threat statute, 18 U.S.C. § 871, or the protection of foreign officials
statute, 18 U.S.C. § 112. This gives the Secret Service the legal
investigating and prosecuting threats against all categories of persons
authorized to be protected under 18 U.S.C. § 3056 and Public Law No.
82 Stat. 170, as amended, and who are in fact being protected by the Secret
Service. Sections 115 and 351 of Title 18 may provide a basis for criminal
prosecution for threats to government and former government officials and
immediate families which may or may not be covered by sections 871 or 879.
See United States v. Raymar, 876 F.2d 383, 389-390, (5th
cert. denied, 493 U.S. 870 (1989).
A prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 879 would not only require
that the statement could reasonably be perceived as a threat but would also
require some evidence that the maker intended the statement to be a threat.
Objective circumstances would bear upon the proof of both subjective intent
objective perceptions. For example, if a person were serving a term of life
imprisonment without the possibility of parole and therefore objectively
not be perceived as presently able to effect a threat to kill a protectee
week, this circumstance should bear upon whether a communication by the
would be considered as "knowingly and willfully" made. H.R. Rep. No. 725,
Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1982), reprinted in 1982 U.S. Code Cong. and Adm.
The application of 18 U.S.C. § 879 was significantly altered in
1994 by restrictions placed upon the Secret Service's authority to provide
protection for Former Presidents who did not serve as President prior to
1, 1997, their spouses, and minor children. Section 3056(a)(3) of Title 18,
generally restricts protection to a period of 10 years from the date such
President leaves office rather than for life; and to a one year period for
spouse when the President dies in office or within one year after leaving
with spousal protection to terminate upon remarriage or divorce from, or
of, a former President, rather than solely upon remarriage. Subsection
restricts protection of children of a former President who are under 16
age to the shorter of a maximum period of 10 years or upon the child
years of age.
[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1530; USAM 9-65.200]