Official victim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The official victim enhancement is a 3- or 6-level increase under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that applies when a person knowingly commits a crime against a government official and is motivated by that person's status. The provision also states, "If the official victim is an exceptionally high-level official, such as the President or the Vice President of the United States, an upward departure may be warranted due to the potential disruption of the governmental function."[1] There are many crimes against federal officials that do not require, as an element of the offense, that the offender know the status of the victim, but this enhancement does.[2] The victimization of the government official need not be the offense of conviction; it is possible, for instance, for the defendant to be convicted of robbing a bank and to get the official victim enhancement for harming a uniformed police officer as he escapes. The assault on the officer is considered relevant conduct.[3] In cases involving threats against the President of the United States, courts have applied the official victim enhancement, rejecting arguments that in order for it to apply, "the President actually [had] been harmed, or ... [knew] of the existence of the defendant's letter."[4] There has been a circuit split in the federal appellate courts as to whether crimes against local government officials qualify for the official victim enhancement.[5] 0.1% of federal cases involve the official victim enhancement.[6]

The term "official victim" also is used in victimology to refer to a four-stage process in which a person progresses from being a harmed, injured or suffering person(s) to perceiving or defining oneself as a victim, to claiming the victim role from social control agents or significant others and then to social control agents' recognition of the role claim — becoming an 'official victim' and receiving compensatory and supportive actions by social control agents.[7]


  1. ^ U.S.S.G. §3A1.2
  2. ^ US v. Padilla, 961 F. 2d 322 (Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1992).
  3. ^ US v. Muhammad, 948 F. 2d 1449 (Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1991).
  4. ^ US v. McCaleb, 908 F. 2d 176 (Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 1990).
  5. ^ U.S. v. Hudspeth, 208 F.3d 537 (6th Cir. 2000).
  6. ^ Federal Public Defender Letter to USSC, 16 (5), July 9, 2004, pp. 361–363
  7. ^ M R Burt (1983), Conceptual Framework for Victimological Research, 8 (3–4), Victimology, pp. 261–269