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Spreading COVID-19 a Terrorist Act

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted millions across the globe. The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the contagiousness of the virus prompted most states, including Georgia, to issue stay-at-home orders.

The panic surrounding the coronavirus spread became so intense that the U.S. Department of Justice released a memorandum warning that the purposeful spread of COVID-19 can be classified as a terrorist act.

During these unprecedented times, anyone can be convicted of committing a terrorist act by coughing on others or otherwise “spreading” the virus, which is why you need a knowledgeable Atlanta criminal defense attorney to avoid legal consequences that could severely impact your life.

Purposefully Spreading COVID-19 Could Result in Federal Terrorism Charges

On March 24, 2020, the DOJ released a memo called “ Department of Justice Enforcement Actions Related to COVID-19,” in which it warned that purposefully spreading coronavirus or threatening to transmit the virus could amount to federal terrorism charges.

A person could be charged with terrorism for intentionally coughing on others or committing another form of “purposeful exposure and infection” of others. After the release of the memo, which was sent to federal law enforcement agencies, state prosecutors across the U.S. started to charge coronavirus-related cases as terrorist acts, terroristic threats, and assault.

The memo encouraged law enforcement officials to use federal “terrorism-related statutes,” including 18 U.S.C § 2332a, which criminalizes the use of “biological agents,” to prosecute offenders in COVID-19 cases. Coronavirus or any other virus capable of causing disease or death meets the definition of a biological agent under the federal law.

COVID-19 Terrorist Acts vs. Terrorist Threats Under Georgia State Law

Georgia state law criminalizes both terrorist acts and terrorist threats. Under O.C.G.A. §16-11-37, an individual commits the offense of a terrorist threat upon threatening to:

Meanwhile, a person commits a terrorist act when:

The above-mentioned acts can be classified as “terrorist threats” or “terrorist acts” when the offender has the intent to:

Penalties for Terrorist Acts and Terrorist Threats in Georgia

Both the terrorist act and terrorist threat offenses carry serious penalties upon conviction.

Speak with our criminal defense attorneys at Ghanayem & Rayasam, LLC, if you are being accused of a terrorist act or threat in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Call at (404) 561-0202 for a case evaluation.