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treason

Treason against the United States is a federal criminal offense and is unique because it is the only crime defined in the United States Constitution. The original Framers of the Constitution believed the citizens of the country owed their loyalty to the country, but were primarily concerned with defining and limiting the crime of treason to guard against the historic use of treason prosecutions by repressive governments.

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution states:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”

And in 1948 the United States Congress enacted a statute—18 U.S.C. §2381— that defines the crime of treason:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war 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 title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

States also have laws that criminalize treason against the state. These state laws are usually located in the state’s statutes or in its constitution.

Treason against the United States is defined by the U.S. Constitution and federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 2381. In Texas, as in all states, the federal definition and regulations regarding treason apply. The Constitution specifies that treason involves levying war against the United States or aiding its enemies, with conviction requiring the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or a confession in open court. The federal statute sets the penalties for treason, which can include death or imprisonment and fines. While Texas may have its own laws regarding acts against the state, treason against the United States is governed by federal law and is prosecuted in federal courts. Therefore, an individual in Texas accused of treason would be subject to the federal legal process and penalties as outlined in the Constitution and 18 U.S.C. § 2381.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

U.S. Constitution - Article III, Section 3
This section of the Constitution defines treason and sets the parameters for how it can be prosecuted, ensuring a clear and limited scope to prevent abuse of power.

Treason against the United States is defined exclusively as levying war against the country or aiding its enemies. Conviction requires testimony from two witnesses to the same overt act or a confession in open court. The section also grants Congress the authority to determine the punishment for treason but prohibits corruption of blood or forfeiture beyond the life of the person convicted.

18 U.S.C. § 2381 - Treason
This statute codifies the crime of treason as defined by the Constitution and prescribes the penalties for those convicted of the crime.

Under this statute, any person who owes allegiance to the United States and either levies war against the country or adheres to its enemies by providing aid and comfort is guilty of treason. The punishment for treason can be death or imprisonment for no less than five years and a fine of at least $10,000. Additionally, individuals convicted of treason are barred from holding any office under the United States.