Treason and Other Crimes Against the State


Crimes against the state are usually discussed as the severest violations of a nation’s law, resulting in threats to the sovereignty and security of a state in many cases. It is also important to note that the specifics of crimes against the state are traditionally reflected in nations’ constitutions and criminal codes to accentuate what unlawful activities can be regarded as the most extreme breaches of the law in a country. The purpose of this paper is to discuss crimes against the state concerning the legislation adopted in the United States and analyze treason as one of the well-known illegal acts in this category.

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Crimes against the State

The group of crimes against the state includes specific activities that are addressed and punished under the federal law of the country. The reason is that these crimes are oriented toward demonstrating the highest level of disloyalty to a certain state, causing threats to state security and stability. From this perspective, crimes against the state are viewed as the most violent activities to break the criminal law of a country and destroy the sovereignty of a nation. The list of these extreme crimes includes treason, terrorism, sedition, espionage, and sabotage, along with illegal immigration as the violation of state borders (Samaha, 520). There are certain laws, statutes, and regulations at both federal and state levels of the United States that are developed to prevent and address this type of crime. However, it is also important to note that, generally, crimes against the state, as a specific category of unlawful acts, are prosecuted under federal law.

Treason, Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration as Crimes against the State

Among a variety of crimes against the state, it is possible to distinguish between treason, terrorism, and illegal immigration. Treason as the action against the sovereign is regulated by both federal and state laws, and its definition is presented in the US Constitution, as well as in the constitutions of states. This type of crime against the state will be discussed in detail in this paper. Terrorism is regarded as a federal crime, and domestic terrorism is associated with violence against the American civilian population (Samaha, 525-531). Illegal immigration is associated with the breach of a country’s immigration laws that leads to violating the right to living legally in the United States. Other types of these crimes are sedition as a communicative act against the established order and sabotage as an action oriented toward destroying the property of the state.

Treason in the United States

When citizens and legislators speak about the crimes against the state, treason is usually viewed as the most typical activity in this category that is associated with significant punishment for a person who committed it. Treason is defined as the betrayal of a citizen’s allegiance to his or her state through overthrowing the government or through providing assistance and comfort to the enemies of the state. One should note that treason is viewed as a unique and extremely severe crime, and its definition is presented in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States (Samaha, 520). Thus, treason should be regarded as the worst offense that can be intentionally committed by a citizen of the United States because a citizen betrays the ideals and values of the American nation and law. This type of crime can be punished not only by imprisonment but also by death.

According to the law standards, a conviction of treason can be realized only when evidence is provided by two witnesses, and people cannot be convicted of this crime under other circumstances. This constitutional provision is significant to guarantee that innocent citizens of the United States will not be convicted of treason without enough proof. Furthermore, no punishment associated with this crime can be given to a person who is not convicted of treason. Thus, Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution allows Congress to determine particular penalties for the act considered as treason. Still, Congress cannot change the definition of this offense, as well as formulate different degrees of treason as a crime. Cases of treason are regulated and considered according to such a treason statute as 18 U.S. Code § 2381 (Samaha, 520-523). In this Code, the language used for defining treason in the Constitution is also presented to avoid the misunderstanding of the key statements related to this unlawful act.

Cases of Treason in the United States

The most recent cases of treason in the United States are related to the period of World War II and the post-war period (the 1950s). The reason is that, in that form, which is discussed in the Constitution of the United States, treason can be observed mainly during a war. In the case Cramer v. the United States (1945), it was declared that Anthony Cramer should have developed an intention to act against the United States. Moreover, his activities against the United States needed to be witnessed by two other people and be proved. In Haupt v. the United States (1947), Herbert Hans Haupt was accused of being a spy for Germany referring to the evidence of two witnesses, as well as additional evidence provided for the court.

Several treason cases tried in the United States during and after World War II allowed for improving the statement of a citizen’s guilt in treason while taking into account the controversial nature of this crime. In Burgman v. the United States (1949), Herbert John Burgman was convicted of spreading propaganda for Germany that meant providing aid and comfort to the enemy, according to the definition in the US Constitution (Samaha, 520-523). In 1952, the case of Kawakita v. the United States was considered by the Supreme Court, and it was stated that the dual citizenship of Tomoya Kawakita did not prevent him from being convicted in the USA. All these cases have contributed to framing the definition of treason and improving the trial process related to these highly problematic cases.

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The discussion of the crimes against the state has allowed for focusing on the most typical types of these offenses. Among them, treason is usually viewed as one of the severest ones. As a result, treason in the United States is punished concerning not only prolonged imprisonment but also death in separate cases. The description of the cases of treason observed in the United States during the period of 1940s-1950s has added to explaining the specifics of trying these crimes in the court referring to the federal law. Thus, currently, treason cannot be discussed as a frequently observed crime in the United States while focusing on its specific definition.

Work Cited

Samaha, Joel. Criminal Law. 12th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.

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