US State Domestic Anti-Terror Acts

How Individual States Have Criminalized Terrorism

The U.S. Department of Justice most often brings terrorism-related charges, but 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that make committing acts of terrorism — and, in some cases, providing support to terrorists — state-level felonies.

Most of these laws were created in response to the 9/11 attacks. In all, 27 states passed anti-terrorism legislation in 2002.

In some states, terrorism is vaguely defined. Arkansas outlaws “terroristic acts” but does not say that such acts must be ideologically motivated, a requirement under the federal terrorism law. Maine prohibits what lawmakers term a “catastrophe” of “terroristic intent,” which can include releasing a chemical or biological toxin or causing an explosion, fire, flood, building collapse, or even an avalanche.

Since 9/11, state lawmakers have continued to be reactionary in drafting and amending anti-terrorism laws. Georgia created a law in 2017 to define “domestic terrorism” following Dylann Roof’s mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina. After Omar Mateen’s massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, lawmakers amended the state’s 2002 anti-terrorism law to strengthen criminal penalties for acts of terrorism, adding a life sentence for terrorists whose violence results in death, among other changes. Kentucky and Michigan provide even harsher penalties: life in prison for anyone convicted of committing an act of terrorism.

Click to take a look at anti-terrorism laws in the 50 states and the District of Columbia