18 USC 112 | Protection of Foreign Officials & Protected Persons

The safety and security of foreign officials and protected persons are taken very seriously in the United States. To ensure the protection of these individuals, there are laws in place to prosecute anyone who threatens, assaults, or harms them. One of these laws is 18 USC 112, which specifically addresses the protection of foreign officials, official guests, and internationally protected persons. This page delves into the details of 18 U.S.C. 112, including its definition, scope, and potential penalties.

18 USC 112 | 18 U.S.C. 112

What Is a Protected Person Under 18 USC 112?

Before discussing the specifics of 18 USC 112, it is crucial to understand what a protected person is. According to the law, a protected person is defined as any foreign government official, any official guest of the United States, or any internationally protected person as defined in the International Organizations Immunities Act. This definition includes diplomats, members of foreign governments, and representatives of international organizations.

Internationally Protected Person

An internationally protected person is any person entitled to special protection under international law due to their status as a foreign government or international organization representative. This includes ambassadors, consuls, and other diplomatic personnel. These individuals often engage in sensitive negotiations or represent their nations in official capacities, making their protection a matter of international diplomatic protocol.

Protected Person Status

Protected person status is given to individuals designated as such by the U.S. Department of State. This status is granted to foreign officials and their families in the United States on official business. They are entitled to certain protections under international law. The designation facilitates their diplomatic functions and ensures they conduct their duties without fear of harm or undue hindrance.

Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges

Diplomatic immunity is another aspect of being a protected person. Diplomats and certain family members are immune from prosecution under the laws of their host country. This immunity, however, does not mean they can commit federal crimes with impunity. Instead, this protects the diplomatic process by preventing legal disputes from obstructing international relations.

Official Guests of the United States

Official guests of the United States may not have formal diplomatic status but are nonetheless granted protections under 18 USC 112. These include heads of state, government ministers, and other dignitaries visiting the U.S. on official state business. The U.S. government extends certain courtesies and protections to these guests to ensure their safety and uphold the country’s reputation as a hospitable host.

18 USC 111 | 18 U.S.C. 111

Understanding 18 USC 112

18 USC 112 states that whoever assaults, strikes, wounds, imprisons, or commits violence upon a foreign official or any other protected person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years or both.

Definition of Assault

Federal assault is defined as the act of intentionally causing bodily harm or causing someone to fear imminent bodily harm. This includes physical attacks, threats, and attempts to harm someone. Assault can range from a verbal threat that puts someone in fear for their safety to actual physical contact that causes injury.

Scope of the Law: 18 USC 112

18 USC 112’s scope is broad, as it applies to any foreign official or protected person in the United States. This includes foreign diplomats, government officials, and representatives of international organizations. It also includes their families who are accompanying them on official business. The law is designed to offer comprehensive protection and covers both acts of violence and credible threats of violence.

Penalties for Violating 18 USC 112

The penalties for violating 18 USC 112 can be severe. Those convicted can face fines, imprisonment, or both. The maximum penalty for violating 18 U.S.C. 112 is three years in federal prison. However, if the assault results in serious bodily injury, the maximum penalty increases to up to ten years in prison. The law serves as a deterrent and reflects the gravity of offenses against protected persons.

Jurisdiction and Prosecution

The federal jurisdiction of this law means that cases involving the assault or intimidation of foreign officials can be tried in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes these cases, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) typically performs these investigations. The international dimension of these offenses often requires coordination with the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies.

Extradition and International Law

Extradition may be sought under existing treaties and international law where the accused is not within the United States. Extradition is the process by which one country formally requests the surrender of an individual from another country to stand trial or serve a prison sentence. This underscores the transnational nature of diplomatic law and the cooperation required to enforce these protections.

Application to Permanent Missions and Consulates

18 USC 112 also extends its protections to individuals associated with permanent missions to international organizations (e.g., United Nations), consulates, and embassies. These locations are considered sovereign territories of the represented nation, and the individuals working within them are afforded protection under this statute.

Examples of Violating 18 USC 112

To better understand the implications of this law, let’s look at a few hypothetical examples of how someone could violate Title 18 U.S.C. 112.

Example 1: A U.S. Citizen Attacks a Foreign Diplomat

Imagine a situation where a U.S. citizen becomes involved in a physical altercation with a foreign diplomat visiting the United States. If the U.S. citizen intentionally causes harm or fear of harm to the diplomat, they could be charged with violating 18 USC 112. This scenario illustrates the law’s applicability regardless of the victim’s nationality as long as the victim is a protected person.

Example 2: A Protester Threatens a Foreign Official

During a diplomatic visit, a foreign official gives a speech when a protester approaches them and threatens bodily harm. Even if the protester does not physically harm the official, their actions could still be considered a violation of Title 18 USC 112. The law considers not just physical assaults but also credible threats that could impede the official’s duties or safety.

Example 3: An International Organization Representative is Assaulted

In another scenario, a representative of an international organization is physically assaulted by a U.S. citizen while on official business in the United States. This would also be considered a violation of 18 U.S.C. 112. The protection extends to representatives of international bodies, recognizing their role in global governance and cooperation.

Example 4: Harassment of a Consular Officer

If a consular officer from a foreign country is subjected to repeated harassment that impedes their ability to perform consular duties, this too could fall under the purview of 18 USC 112. Harassment can take many forms, including stalking, cyberbullying, or persistent threats, all of which may be prosecutable under this statute if they target a protected person.

Example 5: Attack on a Diplomatic Vehicle

Attacking a vehicle carrying a foreign diplomat, such as an embassy car, could also violate Title 18 USC 112. The law covers not only direct assaults on individuals but also attacks on property associated with their diplomatic mission when the intent is to harm or intimidate them.

Example 6: Endangerment of a Foreign Official’s Family

The families of foreign officials are often included in the protections afforded by 18 U.S.C. 112. Therefore, any act that endangers the family members of a foreign official while they are in the United States, such as a kidnapping attempt, would be a violation of this law.

Why Is 18 USC 112 Important?

Protecting foreign officials and protected persons is crucial for maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries. If these individuals do not feel safe and secure in the United States, it could have severe consequences for international relations and the safety of U.S. citizens and officials abroad.

Upholding International Norms

By enacting 18 U.S.C. 112 to protect these individuals, the U.S. government sends a clear message that any threats or harm toward them is not tolerated. This law reflects international norms and treaties that govern diplomatic relations, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which outlines the rules for diplomatic immunity and the treatment of diplomatic personnel.

Reciprocity in Diplomatic Relations

Reciprocity is fundamental in international relations, meaning how one country treats another’s diplomats is often mirrored in return. By ensuring the protection of foreign officials in the U.S., there is an expectation that U.S. officials will receive similar treatment when serving abroad. This mutual respect is essential for successful diplomatic engagement.

Ensuring Functioning International Relations

International relations depend on the ability of representatives to engage with each other in a safe and secure environment. By protecting foreign officials, the U.S. ensures that diplomatic channels remain open and functional. This security allows for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, negotiations of treaties, and collaboration on global issues.

Protecting U.S. Interests Abroad

The safety of U.S. diplomats and officials abroad is directly linked to how foreign officials are treated in the United States. By upholding strong protections for visiting dignitaries, the U.S. sets a standard that promotes the safety of its officials when they are on foreign assignments. This, in turn, safeguards U.S. interests and the personnel who advance them internationally.

What to Do If You Are Accused of Violating 18 USC 112

If you are accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 112, it is vital to seek legal counsel immediately. The penalties for violating this federal law can have serious consequences, and it is crucial to have a knowledgeable and experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side to defend your rights.

An accusation of violating 18 USC 112 is a serious matter that requires the expertise of a defense attorney with experience in federal and international law. A lawyer can help navigate the complexities of the case, protect your rights, and present a robust defense.

Understand 18 U.S.C. 112 Charges

Understanding the charges against you is essential. Your attorney can explain the specifics of Title 18 USC 112, the nature of the alleged offense, and the potential consequences if convicted. Understanding the charges is the first step in building a defense strategy.

Cooperate with the Investigation

While it is crucial to protect your rights, cooperating with the investigation can be beneficial. Your attorney can advise you on how to interact with law enforcement and provide guidance on what information to share and what to withhold.

Explore Defense Strategies

Multiple defense strategies may be available, depending on the circumstances of the case. These can include demonstrating a lack of intent to harm, proving that the accused was unaware of the person’s protected status, or showing that the actions were in self-defense. An experienced criminal attorney will explore all possible defenses to build a strong case on your behalf.

Prepare for Court Proceedings

Preparing for the legal proceedings is essential if the case goes to trial. This includes understanding the federal court process, gathering evidence, and preparing for testimony. A federal criminal defense attorney will handle the legal aspects and work to ensure that your case is presented effectively.

Internationally Protected Person | Protected Person Definition


18 USC 112 protects foreign officials and other protected persons while they are in the United States. This law carries severe penalties for anyone threatening or harming these individuals and is essential to maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries. If you are accused of violating this law, seeking legal counsel and defending your rights is imperative. The importance of this statute cannot be overstated, as it underpins the foundation of international diplomatic engagement and the peaceful conduct of relations among nations.

Schedule an initial consultation with our experienced defense team for further information on 18 U.S.C. 112.

18 USC 112 FAQs

What is 18 U.S.C. § 112?

18 U.S.C. § 112 is a federal law in the United States that protects foreign officials, official guests, and internationally protected persons against various forms of assault, harassment, and other criminal acts.

Who is considered an “internationally protected person” under this statute?

An “internationally protected person” includes foreign heads of state, diplomats, representatives of foreign governments, their family members, and other individuals designated by the President of the United States as entitled to special protection.

What is a protected person definition? What is a protected person legal definition?

A “protected person” under 18 U.S.C. § 112 includes foreign heads of state, diplomats, representatives of foreign governments, their immediate family members, official guests, and internationally protected persons designated by the U.S. President or specified in international agreements.

What is international protected person status?

Under 18 U.S.C. § 112, internationally protected person status grants special protection to foreign heads of state, diplomats, government representatives, their immediate family members, and others designated by international agreements or the U.S. President. This status ensures their safety from violence and harassment, recognizing their crucial roles in international diplomacy and relations.

What is protected person meaning?

A “protected person” under 18 U.S.C. § 112 refers to individuals granted special legal protection due to their official status or the nature of their visit to the United States.

What types of conduct are prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 112?

The statute prohibits assault, murder, kidnapping, and any other violent acts against internationally protected persons. It also prohibits attempts and threats to commit such acts, as well as harassment and intimidation.

What are the penalties for violating 18 U.S.C. § 112?

Penalties can be severe, including fines, imprisonment, or both. The specific penalties depend on the nature of the offense. For instance, assaulting a protected person can result in imprisonment of up to three years, while more serious crimes like kidnapping or murder carry much harsher penalties, including life imprisonment.

Does 18 U.S.C. § 112 apply to acts committed outside the United States?

Yes, the statute has extraterritorial application. This means that U.S. citizens and residents can be prosecuted under this law for committing prohibited acts against protected persons anywhere in the world.

How does this law interact with diplomatic immunity?

While foreign officials and diplomats are generally granted diplomatic immunity, 18 U.S.C. § 112 focuses on protecting these individuals from criminal acts rather than regulating their conduct. Diplomatic immunity does not protect a perpetrator from being prosecuted under this statute.

Are there any defenses available for individuals charged under 18 U.S.C. § 112?

Defenses might include lack of intent, mistaken identity, or actions taken in self-defense. Legal representation is crucial for individuals facing charges under this statute to navigate these defenses effectively.

How does the U.S. government enforce 18 U.S.C. § 112?

Enforcement of this statute is typically handled by federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Secret Service, often in coordination with local and international authorities.

Can U.S. citizens report violations of 18 U.S.C. § 112?

Yes, U.S. citizens can report suspected violations to federal law enforcement agencies. Prompt reporting can help ensure the safety of protected persons and the effective enforcement of the law.

What is the historical context of 18 U.S.C. § 112?

The statute was enacted to comply with international obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and to enhance the protection of foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, reflecting the country’s commitment to international diplomacy and security.

18 USC 112 Sources

  • Legal Information Institute (LII), 18 U.S. Code § 112 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/112)
  • United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 112 (https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:18%20section:112%20edition:prelim)
  • United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Justice Manual, DOJ Justice Manual – 18 U.S.C. § 112 (https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-1624-assault-18-usc-112)
  • Legal Information Institute (LII), 18 U.S. Code § 112 Historical and Revision Notes (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/112)
  • Legal Information Institute (LII), Definitions – 18 U.S.C. § 112(c) (https://www.law.cornell.edu/definitions/uscode.php?height=800&def_id=18-USC-115388180-323753302&term_occur=999&term_src=title:18:part:I:chapter:7:section:112)
  • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel, Opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel – 18 U.S.C. § 112 (https://www.justice.gov/olc)
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Legislative Guide for the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CTOC/legislative-guide.html)
  • American Society of International Law (ASIL), ASIL Insights – The Protection of Foreign Officials and Diplomats in the United States (https://www.asil.org/insights)
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRS Reports – Protection of Foreign Officials and Internationally Protected Persons (https://crsreports.congress.gov)