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California Treason Law – Penal Code 37 / 38

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Treason is the most serious crime one can act against the federal or state government. Treason prosecutions are rare in U.S. history; there have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions.

To the author’s information, in California, there has never been a prosecution for treason. But, the crime of treason is culpable under Penal Code Section 37.

Elements of Treason Crime

Under Penal Code Section 37(a) the elements of treason are:

  • The offender owes loyalty to the government, and
  • The offender willfully betrays that loyalty by either levying war against the government or giving assistance or support to the government’s enemies.

Treason must be intended, someone who unintentionally supports the enemy, or is forced to by intimidation or pressure, isn’t chargeable of treason.

Punishment for Treason

Without the possibility of parole, treason is punishable by death or life imprisonment. The penalty shall be determined according to Sections 190.3 and 190.4 . 

Over Act

The state must utilize the testimony of at least two to demonstrate that the offender did something to further his criminal purpose. The act in furtherance of the criminal intention is pointed to as an “overt act.” A conviction may also be based, however, on a confession in court.

Misprision of Treason – Penal Code Section 38

Misprision of Treason is an intricate offense that still resides on the books in California. The term “Misprision” means the intentional hiding of an act of treason. The crime of misprision of treason is committed by anyone who deliberately hides an act of treason by another person. Alleged would be convicted with “Misprision of Treason” under California Penal Code Section 38 and not Treason under Section 37 if he had nothing to do with the initial treasonous act.


Misprision of Treason is punishable by up to three years imprisonment.

Facing State Criminal Charges?

If you have been alleged with a treason crime, you’re probably thinking about what your rights are. Our criminal defense attorneys in California have years of experience handling these types of matters and winning optimal results for our clients. With more than 40 years of experience, the Law Office of Raoul Severo is at your disposal for a free of charge assessment of your case.