The only crime detailed in the Constitution is treason. This was done by the Framers to prevent such broad interpretations such as criticizing the government. It can only be committed during wartime and only by a United States citizen or resident alien. To be convicted of treason, at least two witnesses must attest to the same treacherous act or a confession must have been made.
Congress has the power to set the penalty for treason but it cannot extend to the family or descendants of the accused. The punishment currently stands at a minimum of five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 up to a maximum of death. No one has ever been executed for treason in the United States. Additionally, Congress has made it a crime for any one to commit sabotage or espionage, strive to overthrow the government by force, or plot either of these.
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© Copyright 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern