Archive for September, 2009

Statutory Trivia Question: UPDATED with answer

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

What federal crime is required to be reported to a judge instead of a law enforcement officer?

I’ll update this post with the answer later in the week.

UPDATE: I got the guesses I was expecting, perjury and contempt, which are typically crimes against the judicial process, and so one might expect them to be reported to judges. But in some ways, E. McPan had the closest guess, with barratry. Barratry is an old common-law offense.

And so is the answer to my trivia question, treason. I know that’s not intuitive, but there is a federal crime called misprision of treason. “Misprision” is basically the offense of knowing about a crime but not reporting it. Most jurisdictions have done away with the concept that one has a duty to report a crime one simply knows about (mere knowledge being short of assisting, criminalized as aiding and abetting or being an accessory). But some retain the crime of “misprision of felony,” which is knowing about a felony but not reporting it. Under the federal code, it’s a misdemeanor, codified at 18 U.S.C. sec. 4.

Misprision of treason, then, is what it sounds like: knowing about treason but not reporting it. But the misprision of treason statute, 18 U.S.C. sec. 2382, states as follows:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State, is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both.

So, if you owe allegiance to the United States (we’ll save for another day how broad that category is), and know about treason, you have to report it to a judge or the president or governor. And while the misprision of felony statute allows for reporting to any “person in civil or military authority,” which I assume would include an ordinary law enforcement officer, the misprision of treason statute requires that treasons be reported to specific authorities, including judges. I suppose my question might be considered a trick question if you think that the president or a governor are “law enforcement officers,” given that they’re at the head of the executive branch, and kind of at the top of that chain of command. But that makes the question less fun.