The Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA), 22 U.S. Code Chapter 39, is intended to help the United States foster peace by limiting the export of military weapons, equipment and services. It is the policy of the United States to facilitate the defense of friendly countries and to prohibit the use of weapons for aggression, terrorism and other wrongdoing. Thus, the AECA requires sale or transfer of many types of weapons, military equipment and technology be approved by the U.S. State Department. Only transactions that are consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives are to be approved.
The act prohibits individuals and companies from selling, trading or transferring weapons, services or technology to a foreign national or country without express permission from the government.
Violation of the AECA can range from a simple, direct transaction with a foreign national or country to the transfer of military parts or technology. The act covers overt arms smuggling, as well as inadvertent transfer of military or even seemingly non-military technology during the course of normal business. Even omitting pertinent information on a licensing application can result in charges being filed.
Federal weapons laws may also be invoked. Violators of the AECA may face charges for being a felon or alien in possession of a firearm, transporting weapons or ammunition across state lines, theft, possession of a machine gun or semi-automatic assault weapon, conspiracy, or assault or other charges stemming from any acts of violence related to the weapons case.
The Blanch Law Firm in New York staunchly defends individuals, companies and corporate officers accused of violating the AECA. The AECA is extremely complex. Only an attorney skilled in defending international criminal schemes can sort through the intricacies of the law. The Blanch Law Firm has the resources and knowledge to provide optimal defense in weapons and technology trafficking cases. Through our team approach, our attorneys ensure consideration of every possible defense strategy. It is to your advantage to contact the firm as soon as you are aware of an investigation.
Under the AECA, the State Department created the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR governs export of defense articles, services or technical data as listed in the U.S. Munitions List. Maintaining compliance can be difficult because the terms of the regulations are so broadly defined. Even an errant download or email can trigger an investigation for possible ITAR violation. The Export Administration Regulations (EAR) govern export of commercial goods and fall under the U.S. Commerce Department. The EAR are much less restrictive than the ITAR because they deal with non-military goods.
Violation of the AECA can result in a fine or imprisonment, or both. Each violation carries up to a $1 million fine and/or up to 20 years in prison.
Defending AECA charges is complex. Lack of knowledge of the law is not a defense. Individuals can argue the product exported fell under EAR, not ITAR, or inadvertent misrepresentation or omission or government misinterpretation of documents. For alleged munitions dealers, typical gun crime defenses are used, including claims of lack of involvement and entrapment.
Most New York State gun laws are covered in Article 265 and Article 400 of New York Penal law. These laws ban possession and sale of certain weapons in the state and govern licensing. The laws do not address weapons transfers to foreign countries or agents.
In November 2013, a Chinese national was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison for exporting multiple shipments of high-powered firearms from the United States to China. Four individuals have been convicted in the conspiracy, which shipped the weapons from Queens, New York to Shanghai, China.