treason | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Treason is the crime of betraying one’s country or government, typically through acts such as waging war against the state or aiding its enemies.

In the criminal justice context, treason is a serious offense that is considered to be one of the most severe crimes that an individual can commit. It involves intentionally working against one’s own government or country, often in a way that poses a threat to national security.

Treason is typically defined by statute, and the specific elements of the crime may vary depending on the jurisdiction. In general, however, it involves acts such as levying war against the government, providing aid and comfort to its enemies, or attempting to overthrow the government through violent means.

The punishment for treason can be severe and may include imprisonment, fines, or even the death penalty. In some cases, individuals convicted of treason may also have their citizenship revoked or be subject to other penalties, such as a ban on holding public office.

Overall, treason is a crime that strikes at the heart of the relationship between an individual and their government. It is a serious offense that is taken very seriously by law enforcement and the criminal justice system and can have significant consequences for those who are found guilty of committing it.


Smith, C. (2018). Treason in the United States: A brief overview. Congressional Research Service.

Stith, K. (2013). The Crime of Treason in the United States: A Primer. University of Illinois Law Review, 2013(2), 523-549.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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