What do you think of when you hear the words “capital crime”?
Most people in the Lone Star State probably think murder. After all, capital charges are reserved for only the most serious of offenses.
However, there are other criminal acts that qualify as being capital offenses, such as espionage and treason. While these terms may conjure thoughts of double agents and the narrow escapes romanticized in spy movies, the rise of cybercrime has shifted these offenses into a higher space. Gone are the days of covert meetings in far off places between independent agents trading government secrets.
Instead, we see accusations of classified documents being leaked by otherwise law-abiding and unassuming citizens who transfer social networking data to foreign governments for analysis of public activity– all from the comfort of a home office space or local café via laptop.
Although less romantic, these crimes are highly advantageous to anyone deliberately working against national security. Because of this, such crimes are taken extremely serious by the government.
If you are facing capital charges for espionage or treason, you need a Texas federal crimes attorney highly experienced in cybercrime and well-versed in how these types of cases work. In the meantime, read on to learn more about exactly what these kinds of charges entail.
Understanding a Capital Charge for Espionage
Although there are many crimes that are considered “espionage,” capital charges primarily surface when national security is threatened in some way. In these cases, the crimes involve spying on the federal government.
But if you share corporate secrets with a competitive company within the U.S. – itself a form of espionage – you will likely be charged under cybercrime laws, and you will face a whole different set of penalties than traditional espionage.
Today, agencies charged with investigating espionage primarily target crimes pertaining to illicit drug trade and what is considered to be terrorist activity. Agents involved in these types of crimes are usually trained experts in a targeted field who have been recruited to work within their career station to maintain access to information desired by the foreign entity.
These agents are able to differentiate valuable data from mundane information in a given organization and pass it on to their superiors. This identification process is generally an espionage investigation’s sole purpose.,
Targets include information about our natural resources – food, energy, and materials – and strategic economic strengths like the production, research, and manufacturing of them. How, when, where, and why the US military is operating, is also frequently sought-after data as well as counterintelligence operations that breach confidentiality through recruited defectors and moles.
Because the difference between data that is generally mundane and useless from that which is considered a national threat can be as simple as the analysis performed upon it, espionage charges often fall into a highly subjective gray area. If you are unsure about whether you have committed an act of espionage, or believe you have unintentionally done so, seek out professional legal counsel specializing in crimes against the government.
Transferred information that can fall under this definition includes:
- Code books
- Signal books
- Photographic negatives
- Or other info relating to national defense
Also note that if more than a single person conspires to commit espionage, and any party acts on any part of the gathering or delivering information as such, all parties may be subject to capital punishment in the conspiracy.
Understanding a Capital Charge for Treason
Any U.S. citizen or person otherwise owing allegiance to the United States that levies war against the country, joins forces with, or offers aid and comfort to its enemies is guilty of treason.
While espionage in relation to capital charges may seem to qualify as joining forces with or offering aid to a foreign entity, it has been debated that unless that foreign entity has been declared an enemy of the U.S., an act of treason cannot have been committed. Further, many scholars argue that an enemy cannot exist until war has been declared.
Additionally, the constitution (Article 3, Section 3) states that 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.
It goes without saying that any capital crime is a serious one, and national security is always a priority for the U.S. government, but it should be noted that in our entire history less than a hundred individuals have ever been convicted of espionage or treason against this country.
Rest assured, if you are facing these charges, a knowledgeable attorney will make sure every consideration regarding your freedoms and liberties as a U.S. citizen will be made.