Not to be confused with mere betrayal, Treason is a serious high crime. It is longstanding law that treason is considered the most serious offense against the United States.Hanauer v. Doane, 79 U.S. 342, 347 (1870). Because treason is the only crime defined in the U.S. Constitution,United States Constitution, Art. 3, Sec. 3, Cl.1. it is a constitutional crime. The definition is: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”Id. As can be seen from this definition, simple lack of loyalty or other acts that do not involve an enemy of the United States are plainly outside of the crime of treason.
The word “only” in the constitution definition plays an important limitation on the concept. It limits the criminal conduct to levying War and giving aid and comfort to an enemy. Anything outside of these two types of actions is not treason. Though not stated in the constitutional definition of treason, it has been longstanding law that intent (treasonable purpose) is an essential element of the crime of treason.Ex Parte Bollman and Ex Parte Swartwout, 4 Cranch (S.Ct. of U.S. 1807)(“treasonable purpose”). More modernly, the high court has simply stated that there must be “treasonable intention”.Haupt v. U.S., 330 U.S. 631 (1947).
Consistent with the Constitution, the U.S. Code has a treason statute which reads: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war and against them or adheres to their enemies giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this titled but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”18 U.S.C. §2381
© 2022 Ralph D. Davis