|9-66.100||Protection of Government Property—Real Property|
|9-66.500||Destruction of Government Property (18 U.S.C. § § 1361-1363, 1366)|
9-66.010 - Introduction
One of the principal responsibilities of the federal criminal law is the protection of government property. The property holdings of the United States, its departments and agencies are extensive and include both real and personal property in this country and abroad. In order for the Federal government to perform the wide range of duties assigned to it by law, it must have ready access to these properties and resources. Therefore it is very important that these properties be protected from any theft, misuse or misappropriation.
This chapter focuses on the series of laws that Congress has enacted which prohibit the wrongful taking or misuse of land, personal property and other resources belonging to the United States.
Responsibility for certain violent crimes and those involving willful destruction of government property may rest with the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division. Prior authorization of the Criminal Division is not required for instituting these prosecutions. United States Attorneys with questions regarding the application of these laws are encouraged, however, to contact the appropriate Section for assistance.
Responsibility for certain violent crimes and those involving willful destruction of government property may rest with the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division. Prior authorization of the Criminal Division is not required for instituting these prosecutions. United States Attorneys with questions regarding the application of these laws are encouraged to contact the appropriate Section for assistance.
Because a number of distinct agencies possess jurisdiction to investigate crimes against government property, it is impossible to provide any simple rules which in all cases define investigative responsibility. In some cases the jurisdiction of these competing agencies is set by statute. In other instances investigative authority is defined by a memorandum of understanding between the affected agencies. Of course, the principal law enforcement agency in this area is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. By statute and by regulation the FBI has broad jurisdiction over offenses involving government property. See 28 U.S.C. § 533; 28 C.F.R. § 0.85. A number of other agencies, however, possess investigative jurisdiction over crimes involving specific federal properties. Some of the most significant of these agencies are described below:
- The Department of the Interior is authorized by 16 U.S.C. §§ 1a-6 to designate certain officers "who shall maintain law and order and protect persons and property within the areas of the National Park System." These officers may make arrests, with and without warrants, conduct investigations and carry firearms. See 16 U.S.C. §§ 1a-6(l) to (3).
- The Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service, through 40 U.S.C. § 1315, has the responsibility to “protect the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal Government … and persons on the property.” 40 U.S.C. § 1315(a). This authority permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate law enforcement officers for the protection of federal property. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315(b). Additionally, among other authorities for the protection of federal property, the Secretary has the authority to promulgate criminal regulations for the protection of federal property. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315(c).
- The Inspector General Act of 1978, 5 U.S.C.App. § 1 et seq., creates within several government agencies independent Offices of Inspector General. See 5 U.S.C. App. § 2(1). The duties of these Inspectors General include the detection of fraud and abuse in government programs. See 5 U.S.C.App. § 2(2). Thus, the Act gives these Inspectors General investigative jurisdiction over some crimes involving government property. Under the Act, Inspectors General are required to report to the Attorney General any information which provides them with "reasonable grounds to believe that there has been a violation of federal criminal law." See 5 U.S.C.App. § 4(d).
- The United States Postal Service has jurisdiction to investigate postal offenses. See 39 U.S.C. § 404(a)(7). In practice, many crimes involving postal service property and personnel are investigated by law enforcement officers from the Postal Service.
- Finally, many crimes involving the theft or misuse of property belonging to the armed services will be investigated at the outset by military police or Defense Department investigators. This is particularly true of offenses committed by military personnel.
9-66.100 - Protection of Government Property—Real Property
The Administrator of the General Services Administration is responsible for the maintenance and operation of federal offices and buildings throughout the United States. See 40 U.S.C. § 301 et seq. However, the duty to protect federal property now resides with the Secretary of Homeland Security. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the Secretary is authorized to enforce the Rules and Regulations Governing conduct on Federal Property. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315. Violations of these regulations are criminal offenses, punishable by thirty days imprisonment, a $5,000.00 fine, or both. See 40 U.S.C. § 1315(c)(2). The Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property can be found in Title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
In addition, there are several statutes which apply to specific federal facilities. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 930 prohibits the possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, 18 U.S.C. § 844(f) relating to the malicious damage or destruction, or attempt thereof, of any federal facility, and 2 U.S.C. §§ 167a-g prohibits soliciting, malicious property damage, possession of firearms and fireworks, speeches or parades in the Library of Congress. A similar set of prohibitions, applicable to the Capitol Building and grounds, can be found at 40 U.S.C. § 193 et seq.
Finally, statutes of general application, such as 18 U.S.C. § 1361, would also extend to federal facilities. Moreover, where the jurisdictional prerequisites have been met, offenses committed within these buildings may also violate the federal enclave laws.
9-66.500 - Destruction of Government Property (18 U.S.C. § § 1361-1363, 1366)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has the authority to investigate offenses under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1361-1363, 1366. The Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division has supervisory authority.
[updated January 2020]