Treason in the US – A Federal Crime
Treason in the US – A Federal Crime. There are more people who talk about the Constitution than there are people who actually understand the Constitution. In fact, it is often assumed that The United States Constitution has some sort of list of crimes, but that is not the case at all. Truthfully, there are only three crimes specifically mentioned by name in the United States Constitution. Those crimes are Counterfeiting, Piracy, and Treason.
What is treason in the US? In short, it is the crime of betraying your country. But nothing in criminal law is that short or that simple. In this blog, we will explore treason and what it is.
What does the Constitution say about Treason?
Treason is found in Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution and it states:
- “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”
From this reading, it can be inferred that treason can include a very wide range of activities. Since that is it the case, we will explore treason further and attempt to gain more clarity.
Treason as defined by Statute
The federal statute that defines treason is 18 U.S. Code 2381. Under this statute, it states “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.”
Like all federal criminal defense, the United States would have to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to be convicted. Therefore, it stands to reason that one of the essential elements of treason that has to be proven is that the defendant did in fact owe allegiance to the United states. In addition, the defendant must have done something to break that allegiance and hurt the interests of the country.
Punishment for treason in the US
Like all other federal crimes, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines apply to treason.
Under those guidelines, depending on the facts, punishment for treason in the US include:
- Imprisonment for not less than five years,
- The death penalty
- A fine of not less than $10,000
If you or a loved one has been charged with any federal crime, you should contact a federal criminal defense attorney immediately. At Gilles Law, we handle federal criminal defense in North Carolina, and federal criminal defense in South Carolina. Contact us for a consultation.