Defined as spying on the U.S. government to leak secrets to groups such as foreign nationals, foreign government agencies and terrorists, espionage is obviously a very serious federal crime.
There are several penalties for committing espionage, which include a prison sentence, large fines and a permanent criminal record. Giving U.S. secrets to an enemy of the country is considered treason. Undoubtedly, courts will deliver the maximum penalty.
If you are facing espionage charges, an experienced attorney will fight for you in the tough battle ahead.
The Difference between Espionage and Intelligence Gathering
In some situations, it is easy to confuse espionage with intelligence gathering. Espionage uses clandestine means and unlawful practices to gather secret information. Militaries, organizations and government use intelligence gathering to obtain useful information. It is not a crime for these entities to do this; however, illegal collection of secret data for illicit purposes is a federal crime.
Crimes and Charges for Espionage
There is a wide variety of espionage crimes. Charges depend on the information that was withheld or disseminated and the security value of the information. Charges that could follow include:
• Harboring or concealing a domestic or foreign individual although there is reason to believe the individual has or is about to commit an espionage offense
• Gathering, losing or transmitting defense information that can be injurious to the U.S. This includes information about national security assets including military bases, stations, aircraft and vehicles.
• Gathering or delivering any of the above national security assets to a foreign agent or foreign government. Examples of the type of information that qualifies as espionage are: selling or transferring the above information. The sale or transfer of drawings, photographs or any other representation of these assets.
• Sketching or photographing a defense installation, or using aircraft to take photos of any defense installation. This act can be compounded with charges from selling or publishing these representations.
• Disclosing classified information of which the person had legal access. Most modern espionage prosecutions start with this charge as the basis.
Punishment for Espionage
Punishment for espionage varies based on the facts of each case. One important thing to note is under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, armed forces members could receive the death penalty for engaging in espionage. Only two other nonviolent federal crimes qualify for the same sentence: treason, and under certain circumstances, drug trafficking.
Civilians who commit espionage could receive some of the harshest punishments under federal statutes. Among other punishments, their sentence could be life in prison.
Additional punishment associated with espionage is loss of visa eligibility. If someone is suspected of being a spy, he or she will not be allowed to enter the United States.
Sentencing guidelines for espionage are very complex. Cases are usually evaluated on a point level basis. Each offense begins with a base offense level. From there, authorities calculate other factors of the case to develop a total point level. This level determines the sentence.
An example of this aiding a foreign government by transmitting national defense information to that government. The base offense level is 37 or 42 when the information is top-secret.
Statute of Limitations
Federal law provides a five-year statute of limitation for most federal crimes. However, this may not hold true for an espionage prosecution. In general, acts of espionage can be prosecuted as late as 10 years after the alleged act occurred. The prosecution may also receive more time to bring charges due to extenuating factors and executive acts.
Get Help from Our Espionage Lawyers
When you are facing federal charge for espionage, there are immediate steps that you should take to make sure your rights are protected. Your legal rights have not changed, regardless of the evidence federal prosecutors might have or the circumstances of your case.
If you secure legal representation from Rainer & Kenniff, PC, you will have knowledgeable attorneys who will review your case and provide further direction. You need an attorney with the skill to fight for your future and freedom.
As former prosecutors, we know how to deal with federal defense cases. In addition, we have the resources to build a strong defense case to get the most favorable outcome.