As seen on:
1610 Southern Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL
Board Certified Criminal Trial Specialist
Determining whether the crime of arson is a state, local, or federal crime depends upon many factors. The elements for the federal prosecution of the specific offense of arson are covered under Title 18 USC Section 844(i). This law makes it a crime to destroy any building, vehicle, personal, or real property used in interstate or foreign commerce by fire or explosion. The Supreme Court held that “affecting interstate commerce” encompasses all property that involves commercial activity. Therefore, virtually any property used in business would be covered under this law.
For example, the Supreme Court ruled that arson of an apartment building would be covered under this rule. However, if the property that is destroyed is not a business, it may not be covered under this nexus. In fact, the Supreme Court held that an owner-occupied residence not used for a commercial purpose did not qualify as a property under this nexus. The government must prove that a private residence has substantial effect on interstate commerce to be successful in a claim under Section 844(i).
Additionally, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the burning down of a church did not fit the criteria under Section 844(i). However, the interstate nexus was achieved when a defendant bombed a local police car because the car was used to stop travelers from out of state, and to transport arrested out of state residents.