Treason in the Constitution

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Thomas C. Grajek View Profile

You need to have your facts straight and immediately react if you are charged with treason against the United States. Treason is not an ordinary felony or misdemeanor, and there are very serious consequences if you should be convicted of this crime. 

It’s in your best interest to contact your attorney immediately for urgent advice. This article aims to enlighten you on the meaning of treason and its occurrence in the US, as well as the penalties imposed for a treason conviction. 

What is Treason?

What is Treason?

Treason is the only crime defined in the American Constitution. Article 3 in the U.S. Constitution defines it as the crime of betraying one’s country (going to war against the United States) and aiding enemies of the U.S. state. Going to war does not imply picking up a weapon to fight against U.S. troops.  It involves deliberate acts, such as aiding enemies of the government by providing information to other hostile nations to harm the country’s security. 

It can include spying for foreign powers and damaging the operation of the government or revealing secrets such as details of private companies constructing weapons for the Defense Department.  

Treason prosecutions are extremely rare; there have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions. Only three people have been charged with treason on state level in the history of the country, since treason generally threatens the nation at large and not just a single state.  

Elements of Treason

A person is guilty of treason if they intentionally betray their allegiance to the country. As defined in the Constitution under Article III, a person can wage war against the United States without the use of weapons or military equipment. You are a traitor to the United States, even if you only play a peripheral role in a conspiracy. 

Someone who unwittingly helps an enemy of the United States during wartime is not guilty of treason. If enemies of the United States force a citizen to help them, that person is not guilty of treason. If you act in a way intended to benefit the United States, but you mistakenly help an enemy of the country, you are also not guilty of treason. 

There is no accomplice liability in the case of US treason, and the state regards every participant in the actions as a principal accused. 

Proving Treason

If the state charges you with treason, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The prosecution can prove treason through a voluntary confession or by providing evidence that the accused committed an overt act of treason in the US. The state needs to establish that the accused actively attempted to commit treason and that it was not only the intent. 

Two people must also witness the overt act of treason; otherwise, the conviction will not stand. The intent of the defendant must be clear to the witnesses from their actions. The government would then have to prove that the defendant’s actions actually assisted the enemies of the state. 

Know your rights when charged with treason. Book a consultation with Thomas C Grajek today. 

Defense Against Treason

Defense Against Treason

 

The First Amendment places a limit on prosecutions for treason in the constitution by protecting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech allows people to express their anger against the government, but it does not protect speech that incites others to violent actions. 

Freedom of speech protects the following rights:

  • The right not to speak and not to salute the flag
  • The right of students to protest war by wearing black armbands to school
  • The right to convey political messages through offensive words
  • The right to contribute money to political campaigns
  • The right to advertise products and services (with some restrictions)
  • The right to burn the flag in protest and engage in symbolic speech 

Freedom of speech does not protect the following:

  • Inciting actions to harm others
  • Creation and distribution of obscene materials
  • Draft cards that are burned as an anti-war protest
  • Students printing articles in a school newspaper after objections from the administration
  • Students making profane speeches at school-sponsored events
  • Students promoting drug use at school-sponsored events 

Penalties of Treason

If the state finds you guilty of treason against the US, you can receive the death sentence. There’s also a possible prison sentence of a minimum of five years and a fine of $10,000. People who are convicted of treason can never hold federal office in the United States. 

PRO TIP:

Read the Constitution and educate yourself about your rights!

Treason in the Constitution FAQs 

What does the Constitution require in treason cases?

If the state charges you with treason, you are innocent until they can prove that you are guilty. Even if you played a peripheral role in a conspiracy, you are still considered a traitor. You are not guilty if you unwittingly helped an enemy of the United States or if enemies of the state forced you to do so. 

Where is treason defined in the Constitution?

Treason is defined in Article 3 of the United States Constitution. 

How many people have been charged with treason in the U.S.?

There have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions, and only three people have ever been charged with treason on state level.

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