California Penal Code § 37 PC defines the crime of treason as warring against the state or adhering to its enemies. As a felony, treason carries the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The entire text of the code section reads as follows:
37. (a) Treason against this state consists only in levying war against it, adhering to its enemies, or giving them aid and comfort, and can be committed only by persons owing allegiance to the state. The punishment of treason shall be death or life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The penalty shall be determined pursuant to Sections 190.3 and 190.4.
(b) Upon a trial for treason, the defendant cannot be convicted unless upon the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or upon confession in open court; nor, except as provided in Sections 190.3 and 190.4, can evidence be admitted of an overt act not expressly charged in the indictment or information; nor can the defendant be convicted unless one or more overt acts be expressly alleged therein
California Penal Code 37 PC defines treason as when a person who owes allegiance to California either:
- levies war against California;
- adheres to California’s enemies; or
- gives aid and comfort to California’s enemies.
Example: Jon works for the CIA. To make extra money, he sells government secrets to Russia. If caught, he could be prosecuted for treason even if Russia never uses the information against the U.S.
Defendants on trial for treason may not be convicted unless:
- at least two witnesses testify to the same overt act of treason; or
- the defendant confesses to treason in open court.
Note that the court may not admit any evidence of an overt act of treason that was not expressly charged in the defendant’s information or indictment.
Furthermore, the defendant cannot be convicted unless the information or indictment expressly alleges one or more overt acts of treason.
Treason is a felony carrying either:
- death, or
- life without the possibility of parole in California State Prison.1
- California Penal Code 37 PC – Treason. For case law interpreting the code section, see Jenkel v. City & County of San Francisco (N.D. Cal. July 21, 2006), 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49923; People v. Jones (2009) 47 Cal. 4th 566.