The United States has a long and colorful history of individuals who have betrayed the country and can honestly be called traitors. Even before the country was fully independent from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War, one of its most decorated war heroes, Benedict Arnold, was discovered in a plan to turn over the crucial fort at West Point, later to become the Army Academy, to the British. Fortunately, his plan was discovered before the “redcoats” were able to take up residence in the fort with such a lovely vista of the Hudson River Valley, but he was still named a traitor.

Treason, the crime that makes a person a traitor, was deemed to be an important enough crime with enough grey areas in its prosecution that it is included in the United States Constitution. The U.S. Constitution includes treason in Article Three, the article devoted to the judiciary. It states, in section three of Article Three, that a person “shall not be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” The section goes on to say that Congress is given the power to determine adequate punishment for treason. Treason was deemed such a volatile charge that special evidentiary rules were included to prevent its misapplication or overuse.

By definition, treason is a crime that punishes extreme instances of disloyalty to one’s nation or sovereign. In the historical context, treason was levied against those who attempted to murder or accomplished a murder of one of his or her social superiors, such as a murder of a husband by his wife. While we no longer recognize the second instance of treason, the first is still applicable.

In order for a person to be named a convicted traitor, the court or prosecution must prove that the individual intended to act against the country. There are two crucial elements to the crime that must be in place before a single person can be charged with treason. First, the individual who committed the act must actually own an allegiance to the United States. This means that an individual that comes to the United States for the purpose of doing something against the state cannot be convicted of treason or even tried for it because he or she does not owe an allegiance to the United States. The person is not a citizen, a resident, etc.

The second crucial part of any treason charge is that there are two witnesses to the action or its planning. The two witnesses are important because it ensures, to a certain degree, that the individual is not arrested on an anonymous tip or some other disingenuous tip made out of spite. The two witnesses do not have to be necessarily “good guys;” they just have to have witnessed the traitorous act or its planning.

An example of a recent individual against whom charges of treason were considered was the young man from the West Coast that was caught in Afghanistan fighting against the Americans. One of the big questions when decided to try him for treason was whether he actually owed an allegiance to the United States.

Treason is a serious crime that is almost as old as time itself.

The West Palm Beach criminal lawyers of Eric N Klein & Associates have an established reputation for hard work and are devoted to seeing that justice is served for all.

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