Assimilative Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 13)

The Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 USC § 13, can be used when a person is accused of committing a crime under state law on federal land, especially when the act is not prohibited by federal law. For example, because there is no federal DUI law, the Assimilative Crimes Act is often used to prosecute individuals who drive while intoxicated or impaired on federal lands.

Many of cases prosecuted under the Assimilative Crimes Act involve a violation of state law that occurred on a military base or installation.

In the Tampa Bay area, these offenses often involve a DUI arrest while driving on a military installation such as MacDill Air Force Base or in the parking lots of federal buildings such as the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. In National Parks, 36 CFR 4.23 prohibits drunk or impaired driving, which alleviates the need for a DUI prosecution under the Assimilative Crimes Act.

Attorneys for Prosecutions under the Assimilative Crimes Act 

If you are charged with a crime in federal court under state law, then contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL. At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in representing clients being prosecuted for state law violations committed on federal law in the Middle District of Florida.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case.

What is the Assimilative Crimes Act?

The Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13, provides that:

Whoever within or upon [federal property] is guilty of any act of omission which, although not made punishable by any enactment of Congress, would be punishable if committed or omitted within the jurisdiction of the State … in which such place is situated, by the laws thereof in force at the time of such act or omission, shall be guilty of a like offense and subject to a like punishment.

The statute assimilates state criminal laws and provides for federal prosecution of violations on federal property of state criminal statutes. The ACA has been described as “a shorthand method of providing a set of criminal laws on federal reservations by using local law to fill the gaps in federal criminal law.” United States v. Prejean, 494 F.2d 495, 496 (5th Cir.1974).

“The purpose of the [ACA] is to conform the law of federal enclaves to that of the surrounding state by applying state criminal statutes to non-federal criminal acts … committed within areas over which the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction.” Pattern Crim. Jury Instr. 10th Cir. 2.97 (2011) (citing United States v. Mayberry, 774 F.2d 1018, 1020 (10th Cir. 1985); Johnson v. Yellow Cab Transit Co., 137 F.2d 274, 276 (10th Cir. 1943)).

Additonal Resources

Bench Brief on the Assimilative Crimes Act – The Traffic Resource Center for Judges, an initiative of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) created this bench brief explaining the Assimilative Crimes Act. The Department of Transportation and the NCSC contributed to this resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff.

This article was last updated on Thursday, November 1, 2018.