I'm curious to know what sort of legal ramifications there can or will be for the Trump supporters who entered the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. I've seen it being called an "assault" in the news, but there is a video circulating that shows a police officer waving people in beyond the barriers. Is it trespass if the protesters were invited in?

Will there will be charges of vandalism for some people? What other charges are likely? What are the penalties?

Are accessory to murder charges possible given a police officer and a protester died?

Numerous protesters have gone on YouTube and posted videos bragging about their activities. Some of these people give their names and where they're from, and even seem to actively admit guilt, to the point of being specific about their crimes.

What sort of trouble are these people realistically looking at?


3 Answers 3


It is hard to know what to call the people who entered the capitol and its grounds without biasing the answer by the selection of terms. I am going to call them "intruders" because I must call them something to make an answer.

If police or other authorized people actually invited the intruders in, then some otherwise possible charges go away, at least for those so invited. But the videos and other news coverage I have seen do not appear to include any such invitation. Some do include police or security shouting at intruders to "stop" or "stay out". Some show intruders breaking doors or windows to gain access, and others coming in through such broken openings. I don't see how anyone who entered in such a way could plausibly argue that s/he was invited in.

Documenting exactly who said and did what during the hours that the intrusion lasted, would be a huge effort. I doubt it will ever be fully accomplished. But it seems clear that many laws were violated by at least some of the intruders, both Federal laws and DC laws.

These might include:

  • Criminal tresspass

  • DC Code § 22–3302 Unlawful entry on property. Penalty: fine and up to 6 months imprisonment

  • DC Code § 22–3211 Theft. Penalty: Up to 10 years, depending on circumstances and value of property. Up to 180 days for 2nd degree. See § 22–3212.

  • DC code § 22–404 Assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner Penalty: fine and up to 180 days; up to 3 years if "serious bodily injury to another" results (defined as requiring prompt hospital treatment)

  • DC Code § 22–405.01 Resisting arrest. Penalty: fine and up to 6 months.

  • [DC code 18 DCMR 2000.2] Failure to obey police officer. Penalty: fine up to $1,000.

  • DC code § 22–2101 Felony murder, for those who can be proved to have engaged in robbery, housebreaking or any of the other listed felonies (most of which would not apply).

  • 18 U.S. Code § 1752 "Restricted building or grounds" Possible penalty: fine or imprisonment for not more than 10 years for those using or carrying firearms or dangerous weapons, up to 1 year otherwise. Several subsections of this were probably violated by many of the intruders.

  • 18 U.S. Code § 1361 "depredation against any property of the United States". Penalty: Fine plus up to 10 years if value over $1,000, up to 1 year if under $1,000.

  • 18 U.S. Code § 2112 Robbing personal property of the United States. Penalty: up to 15 years. Some intruders were seen in videos carrying off fixtures and property from the capitol.

  • 18 U.S. Code § 930 - Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities. Penalty: fine and up to 1 year; up to 5 years if there is intent to use the weapon to commit a crime. Some intruders are seen carrying guns.

  • 40 U.S. Code § 5104 Restricts various activities on the Capitol grounds including: "A person may not step or climb on, remove, or in any way injure any statue, seat, wall, fountain, or other erection or architectural feature, or any tree, shrub, plant, or turf, in the Grounds." and "may not carry on or have readily accessible to any individual on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm, a dangerous weapon, explosives, or an incendiary device". Also, "may not knowingly, with force and violence, enter or remain on the floor of either House of Congress." also a person may not "parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Grounds; or display in the Grounds a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement." without authorization.

  • 18 U.S. Code § 231 A person who transports a firearm for use in a civil disorder, or obstructs a law enforcement officer in the course of a civil disorder. Penalty: Fine and up to five years.

  • 18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy. Discussed at length in the lawfare blog article Penalty: fine and up to 20 years.

Which, if any, of the above laws might actually be charged against one or another intruder there is no way to know yet, and there way well be other provisions which would apply that I have not thought of or found.

  • While it would legally apply I highly doubt any other then those directly involved in the fatal incidents would be charged with Felony Murder.
    – dsollen
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 0:40
  • Actually, it appears the DC felony murder rulings would only apply to those that actively contributed to someone's death (and were guilty of one of the other relevant offenses), it's more strict then some states: law.stackexchange.com/questions/59974/…
    – dsollen
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 0:56

There is already an answer which lists some of the possible crimes which were committed by the perpetrators due to the methods they used.

I'll add that their stated goal was itself a crime.

Deliberately interfering with a government function performed by Congress falls under obstruction of Congress. This is a part of the obstruction of justice law.
Here are the relevant parts of 18 U.S. Code § 1505 which set the criteria for guilt:

Whoever ... by threats or force, or by ... communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had ..., or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress...

They clearly intended to obstruct a proceeding going on in Congress. So it fits.


The collective group of protestors would likely not be charged with assault. Assault could be charged to the subset that assaulted individuals inside the Capitol Building. Similarly I've seen reports of Theft which are also chargable. Some laptops from legislator offices were taken. The Capitol Building is not secured for holding classified information, so it shouldn't have been among the stolen items, but that could be include. For a majority, there may be trespassing and disorderly conduct charges at worst, but arrests will be made of individuals mostly so it's hard to say what will happen given the nature of arrests and the massive amounts of people involved.

  • 1
    Anyone who entered the capitol as part of the intrusion could probably be charged with a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1752 which carries a significantly higher penalty than "trespassing and disorderly conduct charges" Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 17:42
  • 1
    "Assault could be charged to the subset that assaulted individuals inside the Capitol Building": so those who assaulted people outside the Capitol building can't be charged with assault?
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 8:06
  • @phoog: If you can show that people who ENTERED the Capitol Building somehow assaulted people who remained outside the Capitol Building, sure. Or to better explain, since the question is about those who entered the building only, assault would have most likely cover the inside assaults.
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 12:49
  • @DavidSiegel: Could you link to the law? As a general rule, the Capitol Building is open to the general public during normal buisness hours, and it seems some subset of the protesters were let by Capitol Police as per this policy. The general rule is that the public should have access to the law makers to discuss policy and watch the chambers from the gallery (This was a historic D.C. Past time for many residents up to and including First Ladies).
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 12:54
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    @hszmv 18 USC 1752 is linked in my answer already. It applies to one who "enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority" or who "impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions" in such a building, or "obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds;" and other offenses. It applies to "any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area" of a building or grounds where ... "[a] person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting " I think it fits. News agrees. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 15:46

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