The Columbus criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates are knowledgeable about federal treason and related crimes. If you have been charged with a federal crime, contact them today at (614) 500-3836.
Prosecutions for treason are rare in the United States. In fact, there have only been around 40 prosecutions for this crime, which resulted in the convictions of only a handful of individuals. One of the reasons why there may have been so few treason cases is that people acting against the interests of the United States are usually indicted under federal sedition, terrorism, or espionage laws.
Some famous federal treason cases include that of Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American who was sentenced to death for working as an interpreter in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.
More recently, American citizen Adam Yahiye Gadahn was charged with treason in 2006 for appearing in al-Qaeda videos and threatening war against the United States. He was never brought to trial, however. Instead, he was assassinated by a drone strike in 2015.
What is Treason?
Treason is the only crime that is specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the constitution states that no person can be convicted of treason unless there is incriminating testimony from at least two witnesses—or the accused person confesses to the crime.
The full legal definition of federal treason appears at 18 U.S.C. Section 2381, which states that a person is guilty of treason when he or she:
- Owes allegiance to the United States; and
- Intentionally betrays that allegiance by levying war against the United States or giving aid or comfort to her enemies.
Levying war doesn’t necessarily mean declaring war against the United States. Under the law, levying war may include acts such as using force in concert with others to oppose the execution of a public law—even if weapons aren’t involved.
Merely conspiring to forcibly oppose a law or to overthrow the government isn’t enough to be charged with treason. The prosecutor must show that you were a member of group of people actually assembled and ready to use force.
Giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States consists in taking a concrete action that benefits a declared enemy of the country during time of war. You may be convicted of treason even if the treasonous act itself was unsuccessful—a mere attempt to provide aid to the enemy may be enough.
What Are the Possible Defenses to Treason Charges?
In the rare case in which a person may be charged with treason, the primary defense would be to appeal to the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The right to free speech gives Americans the ability to express their anger against the United States government and its officials. While it is legal to express a desire to overthrow the government, or for the country to lose to its enemies, the right to free speech does not protect speech that is likely to incite violence, or actions that might bring aid to its enemies.
Other defense strategies to treason charges are similar to the defenses used to fend off more common criminal charges. Your lawyer’s first priority is to ensure that the prosecution cannot use its evidence against you at trial. One of the most effective ways of suppressing the prosecution’s evidence is showing that it was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights. For example, evidence obtained from an illegal search of your home or computer cannot be used to convict you of a crime.
The prosecutor must prove every element of the crime of treason beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that you cannot be convicted if your lawyer shows that it is possible that you did not intentionally commit an overt act against the United States. Even where there is evidence that you did act intentionally, it may be possible to show that there is a reasonable doubt as to whether your actions brought aid and comfort to the enemy, or consisted in levying war against the United States.
What Charges Are Related to Treason?
Most people who have committed treasonous acts against the United States have not been tried for treason. Instead, they usually faced charges for related crimes, such as:
- Espionage—You may face this charge if you obtain classified information pertaining to the United State’s defense, and pass it along to a foreign nation. You could get convicted of espionage even if the foreign nation is an ally of the United States.
- Conspiracy to Commit Sedition—This charge may apply to any situation in which a person conspires to overthrow the government by force. Importantly, the accused doesn’t need to owe allegiance to the United States.
- Terrorism—In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. created laws targeting people who commit or conspire to commit terrorism. Unlike treason, these laws may apply to citizens and foreign nationals alike.
- Conspiracy to Levy War—This charge is similar to treason, except for that it doesn’t require that a group of people be assembled and ready to use force against the government.
There are several circumstances under which you could face criminal charges for taking actions against the interest of the United States. These cases may be politically motivated, which means that you will need the best legal representation possible to overcome the government’s desire to prosecute you. You will need a lawyer who can push back against the government and uphold your constitutional right to free speech.
How the Columbus Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
At Luftman, Keck & Associates, we have helped countless Ohioans avoid convictions for offenses ranging from driving under the influence to serious felonies. Our Columbus criminal defense attorneys have the tenacity and experience to give you the best chances possible as you face the criminal justice system. If you are facing criminal charges, call us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
Facing federal criminal charges? Contact us.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering what your options are. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these types of cases and winning optimal outcomes for our clients. Call an Ohio federal crime lawyer today for a free consultation. To contact a criminal defense attorney, call us at (614) 500-3836 or email us via [email protected].