Federal Charges for Treason or Sedition

The federal criminal defense attorneys at Cofer Luster Criminal Defense Lawyers, will not reject a client based on what the client is accused of. Our commitment to justice and the United States Constitution means we will zealously defend clients accused of Treason or Sedition.

It may be difficult to find a criminal defense lawyer for federal charges of Treason or Sedition. Under the Texas disciplinary rules, lawyers ordinarily are not obliged to accept a client whose character or cause the lawyer regards as repugnant. These clients’ need for competent counsel may be particularly pressing. We respect other lawyers have their own moral and ethical code. Ours compels us to provide the best defense possible for those unpopular causes and clients.

Crime Contained within the U.S. Constitution

The text of the United States Constitution only identifies three federal crimes – piracy, counterfeiting, and treason. Article I, Section 8, Clause 10, identifies piracy and gives Congress the power to “define and punish piracy and felonies on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations.” Article I, Section 8, Clause 6, gives Congress the power to “provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States.” However, Treason is the only crime defined within the body of the Constitution.

Article III, Section 3, of the United States Constitution says Treason “shall consist only in levying war against [the United States], or in adhering to [the United States’] enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The offense of Treason in the United States Code tracks the language of the Constitution.
The federal crime of Sedition is set out in the United States Code.

Special Rule for Evidence in Treason Prosecutions

The law usually does not specify the particular nature or quantity of evidence required to sustain a conviction. However, the Constitution contains a specific requirement for conviction of Treason.

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 Constitution assumes one accused of Treason has an allegiance to the United States. The United States Code specifically includes that requirement. 18 U.S.C. § 2381.

The Federal Crime of Sedition

Under Title 18, Section 2384, of the United States Code, a person commits the federal offense of “Seditious conspiracy” if, with at least one other person, the person conspires:

  1. to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States;
  2. to levy war against the United States;
  3. to oppose by force the authority of the United States;
  4. to use force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States;
  5. to use force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.

Federal Crimes Related to Treason and Sedition


Title 18, Section 2382 of the United States Code defines the offense of “Misprision of treason.” A person commits misprision of treason if the person has knowledge of treason and conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State.

Rebellion of Insurrection

A person commits a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 2383, if the person “incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto.”

Advocating overthrow of Government

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2385 a person commits the federal charge of” Advocating overthrow of Government,” if the person “knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government”
This offense includes:

  • Actions that in any way help print, publish, or distribute any written or printed matter advocating or advancing the forceful overthrow of the United States;
  • Organizing, helping, or attempting to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who advocate for or advance the overthrow of the United States. “Organize” in this context means the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.

Penalty for Treason and Sedition

The United States Code sets out the penalties and punishment for charges of Treason, Sedition, and related charges.
18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason is punishable by imprisonment of not less than five years and a not less than $10,000; and the person shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
18 U.S. Code § 2382 – Misprision of treason is punished by a fine or imprisonment of not more than seven years, or both.
18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection is punished by a fine or imprisonment of not more than ten years, or both; and the person shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy is punished by a fine or imprisonment of not more than twenty years, or both.
18 U.S. Code § 2385 – Advocating overthrow of Government is punished by a fine or imprisonment of not more than twenty years, or both; and the person shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

Unintended Consequences

The criminal charges someone faces are not be limited by the specific acts performed by that person. The questions of coconspirator or party liability are complex.

The classic example of criminal responsibility for another person is the plight of the “lookout.” Three people (X, Y, and Z) planned to rob a store. X went in to get the money. Y was the “getaway driver.” Z was the “lookout.”

X lost his cool and shot the clerk. The clerk dies. Then Y and Z are criminally responsible for the murder of the clerk.

This is a simplistic example. If your case involves unintended actions of others and things went beyond what you signed on for, then you need to speak with a federal criminal defense attorney immediately.


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