misprision of treason | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Misprision of treason is a legal term used to describe the act of concealing or failing to report knowledge of treasonous activities.

Let’s unpack this a bit more. Treason involves acts of betrayal against a country. It’s like stabbing your homeland in the back. Acts of treason include things like trying to topple the government, starting a war against the state, or helping enemies of the state. Misprision of treason, then, is knowing about these acts and choosing to say nothing or actively hide them.

Why Misprision of Treason is a Crime

Why is it illegal not to report treason? The reason is simple: safeguarding the state. Every citizen has a duty to protect their country from harm. If you know about treasonous activities and stay silent, you’re putting your country at risk. That’s why this act is considered a crime.

What Misprision of Treason Involves

There are several elements to the misprision of treason. Firstly, you must be aware of the treasonous activities. It’s not enough to suspect or speculate—you must have concrete knowledge. Secondly, the activities you know of must amount to treason, a serious crime against the state.

Finally, your silence or active concealment must be intentional. Accidentally not reporting treason, such as forgetting to do so, doesn’t count. You must consciously choose not to inform the authorities.

Active Concealment

Let’s not forget this offense can also include active concealment. This is when you do more than stay silent—you actually hide evidence of treason. For instance, if you help destroy evidence or mislead authorities, you’re actively concealing treason. This could also result in a charge of misprision of treason.

The Consequences of Misprision of Treason

So what happens if you’re found guilty of misprision of treason? Penalties can vary depending on your location, but they often include fines or jail time. Remember, this is a grave crime that carries heavy penalties.

The Importance of Reporting Treason

Why do we have this law? It’s about keeping the state safe. Authorities can’t stop treasonous activities if they don’t know about them. Laws like the misprision of treason ensure everyone plays their part in protecting their country.


To sum it up, misprision of treason is the act of deliberately not reporting or hiding knowledge of treason. It’s a serious crime that reflects the duty we all have to protect our nation. Remember, staying silent might seem easy when you know about treason, but it’s a choice that can lead to severe consequences. It’s crucial to speak up and play your part in protecting your country.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 06/04/2023

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