What are the Criminal Charges for Attempting to Join ISIS?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 12, 2016 | 0 Comments


The terrorist organization known as ISIS uses social media and other means to actively recruit individuals around the globe, including Americans, to join them in the Middle East. If you attempt to travel abroad with the intent of joining ISIS or any other terrorist group, you will be charged with a serious federal offense and spend decades in federal prison.

Attempting to Provide “Material Support and Resources” to a Terrorist Organization

As part of the USA Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of 9/11, Section 2339B of Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a crime to provide or attempt to provide “material support or resources” to a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

Specifically, a person violates Section 2339B when he or she “knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so.”

To violate this paragraph, a person must have knowledge that: 

  • the organization is a designated terrorist organization
  • the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity, or
  • the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism

ISIS was designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” in 2014, and its predecessors were designated as such even earlier. Even if they don't know that ISIS was designated as such an organization, anyone travelling abroad with the specific intent of joining ISIS no doubt knows that it has “engaged or engages in terrorism.”

For purposes of Section 2339B, the term “material support or resources” means:

“any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials”

 Anyone attempting to join ISIS is intending to provide them with “personnel” and thus is violating this law.

Penalties for Attempting to Join ISIS

If you are convicted for violating Section 2339B, you can be sentenced to federal prison for up to 15 years and fined. If the death of any person results, however, you can be sentenced to life in prison.  

If you have been charged with attempting to join ISIS or are facing any other charges relating to terrorism, you are facing severe consequences. You need to contact an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer immediately. Please give us a call today.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


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