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Criminal Resource Manual

1426. Destruction Of Motor Vehicles

Section 33 makes it a Federal crime willfully, with intent to endanger the safety of any person on board or anyone he/she believes may be on board, to disable, destroy, tamper with, or place or cause to be placed any explosive or other destructive substance in, upon, or in proximity to any motor vehicle which is used, operated, or employed in interstate or foreign commerce, or its cargo or material used or intended to be used in connection with its operation. The defendant must willfully cause the injury to the motor vehicle. United States v. Kurka, 818 F.2d 1427 (9th Cir. 1987). The motor vehicle must be one used for commercial purposes to transport persons and/or property on the highways. (Prior to October 12, 1984, trucks carrying only cargo were not covered, but they now are. (See Part I of Chapter X of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub.L. No. 98-473, October 12, 1984.)) In United States v. Lowe, 65 F.3d 1137 (4th Cir. 1995), the Fourth Circuit construed the term "used" to require only that the motor vehicle be used by a business engaged in interstate commerce and not that the vehicle itself had to actually travel in interstate commerce. Id. at 1143.

While the normal penalty for a violation of § 33 is a fine under Title 18, or imprisonment not more than 20 years, or both, as of January 1, 1996, Congress increased the period of incarceration to a mandatory term of not less than 30 years if the motor vehicle, at the time of the offense, carried high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel. See 18 U.S.C. §  33(b).

[cited in USAM 9-139.020; USAM 9-63.200]