Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Tennessee

Can I file arrest warrant for Barack Obama on a charge of treason

Asked on 3/05/19, 9:07 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Of course not. If individuals could charge government officials with treason, it would happen every day to officials from both parties -- not because the charges would be valid, but because most individuals don't know what treason actually is and because many who would want to bring such charges wouldn't particularly care what the law says. (Though you obviously do.)

Only the government can charge someone with any type of serious crime. (A few states allow individuals to do so as to very minor state-law crimes.) The federal government alone may bring charges of crimes defined by federal law, while each state has exclusive authority to bring charges under its own laws. Treason is primarily a federal crime. Some states have made it a crime as well. Tennessee, where your post says you're from, used to have a law against treason but no longer does.

Treason requires a lot more than enacting or pursuing policies that some people strongly disagree with. Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution defines it this way: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The federal statute against treason, 18 U.S. Code § 2381, uses the same definition. Most state laws against treason also use this definition, though there are some slight variations.

Treason is the only crime specifically defined by the Constitution. Its definition is deliberately narrow, because the founding fathers knew that charges of treason were often used in England to suppress dissent or to punish opponents. Article III, Section 3 was written to prevent such abuses in this country. Allowing individuals to bring charges of treason would invite the very type of abuse -- on a very large scale -- that the Constitution was designed to prevent.

Read more
Answered on 3/05/19, 11:43 am

Related Questions & Answers

More Constitutional Law questions and answers in Tennessee