Federal Crimes and Prosecutions

The Federal Aviation Act makes a number of specific acts criminal offenses and prescribes punishment for the same.  Besides the offenses specified in the Federal Aviation Act, various offenses associated with aviation are specified in other statutes.

Pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Theft Act, the act of transporting aircraft in interstate or foreign commerce, knowing the same to be stolen, will be subject to a fine or imprisonment[i].

The Motor Vehicle Theft Act also provides that a person who receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of any aircraft which has crossed a state or U.S. boundary after being stolen, knowing the same to have been stolen, will be fined or imprisoned[ii].

The court, in imposing a sentence on a person convicted of an offense under the Motor Vehicle Theft Act, will order civil[iii] or criminal[iv] forfeiture of any property involved in such offense, or any property traceable to such property.

The destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities is a federal crime.  A person will be fined or imprisoned if s/he willfully[v]:

  • sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the U.S. or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce;
  • places or causes to be placed a destructive device or substance in any aircraft, or any part or materials used or intended to be used in connection with the operation of such aircraft, if such placing or causing to be placed is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft;
  • sets fire to, damages, destroys or disables any air navigation facility, or interfere by force or violence with the operation of such facility, if such conduct is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft in flight;
  • with the intent to damage, destroy, or disable any such aircraft, set fire to, damage, destroy or disable or place a destructive device or substance in, upon, or in proximity to, any appliance or structure, ramp, landing area, machine, or apparatus, or any facility or other material used, or intended to be used, in connection with the operation, maintenance, loading, unloading or storage of any such aircraft or any cargo intended to be carried on any such aircraft;
  • interferes with or disables, with intent to endanger the safety of any person or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, anyone engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft or any air navigation facility aiding in the navigation of any such aircraft;
  • performs an act of violence against or incapacitates any individual on any such aircraft if such act of violence or incapacitation is likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft;
  • communicates information, knowing it to be false and under circumstances in which such information may reasonably be believed, thereby endangering the safety of any such aircraft in flight; or
  • attempts or conspires to do any of the aforementioned prohibited acts.


Further, a person breaking the seal or lock of any aircraft or enters such vehicle with intent in either case to commit larceny therein, will be fined or imprisoned[vi].

[i] 18 USCS § 2312.

[ii] 18 USCS § 2313.

[iii] 18 USCS § 981.

[iv] 18 USCS § 982.

[v] 18 USCS § 32.

[vi] 18 USCS § 2117.

Inside Federal Crimes and Prosecutions