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How Does Virginia Criminal Law Address Terrorism?


Even though many years have passed since September 11th, terrorism remains a hot button topic across the United States. Although it is generally prosecuted as a federal crime, acts and weapons of terrorism are also illegal under Virginia state law, punishable as a felony with severe criminal penalties.

Defining Acts & Weapons of Terrorism

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-46.4 defines terms “act of terrorism” and “weapon of terrorism.” Under this section, there are two elements to acts of terrorism.

First, there needs to be an act of violence, as defined in Code of Virginia Section 19.2-297.1. More specifically, acts of violence include:

  • First-degree murder;
  • Second-degree murder;
  • Voluntary manslaughter;
  • Kidnapping or abduction felonies;
  • Malicious assault felonies;
  • Malicious bodily wounding felonies;
  • Robbery or carjacking;
  • Arson felonies; and
  • Criminal sexual assault felonies.

Second, an act of terrorism under Section 18.2-46.4 must be committed in Virginia with the intent to:

  • Intimidate the larger civilian population; or
  • Influence how local, state, or federal governmental agencies by using intimidation.

A weapon of terrorism under Section 18.2-46.4 is a broad term that refers to various devices and materials, when used with the intent to cause harm, injury, or death. Additionally, weapons of terrorism must release or otherwise distribute:

  • Biological substances of an infectious nature;
  • Poisonous substances; or
  • Radioactive substances.

Committing or Abetting Acts of Terrorism

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-46.5 makes it illegal for any person to commit or conspire to commit acts of terrorism. This section also prohibits any person from aiding or abetting acts of terrorism.

For the most severe violations, acts of terrorism are punishable as Class 2 felonies under Section 18.2-46.5. Upon conviction, the offender is subject to a prison sentence of 20 years to life and criminal fines up to $100,000.

For less severe violations, acts of terrorism are punishable as Class 3 felonies under Section 18.2-46.5. Upon conviction, the offender is subject to a prison sentence between five and 20 years as well as criminal fines up to $100,000.

Possessing or Manufacturing Weapons of Terrorism

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-46.6 makes it unlawful for any person to possess, manufacture, use, give, or distribute:

  • Weapons of terrorism;
  • Fire bombs;
  • Explosive materials; or
  • Hoax explosive devices.

Any person who violates this section with the intent to commit an act of terrorism is guilty of a Class 2 felony. However, if the violation involves an imitation weapon of terrorism or similar device,  it is a Class 3 felony. In either situation, the applicable punishment is the same as described in the previous section.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal help with charges for terrorism or other criminal offenses in Virginia, it can be incredibly worthwhile to consult with an adept criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg federal crime lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have vast experience in the field of criminal law, defending clients against charges like terrorism. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

Simms Showers LLP is conveniently located two blocks from the Loudoun County Courthouse. Our criminal defense firm offers a free phone consultation for criminal or personal injury cases. Se habla español. Call Simms Showers LLP for quality legal counsel today at 703-997-7821 or contact us online.

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