New York Espionage Laws & Charges + Statute of Limitations

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Espionage is a complicated yet very serious area of crime in the state of New York, and indeed across the entire country. In fact, the United States federal government applies the death penalty in some areas for crimes such as treason, espionage, terrorism, federal murder, and drug trafficking in certain cases.

Espionage refers to a broad category of federal crimes including conspiracy, which is defined by 18 USC Chapter 37. Although espionage can be linked to a wide range of other crimes, usually the underlying and motivating factor in cases of espionage is a desire to sell or provide sensitive information to enemy governments regarding the United States government. Usually, this information is privileged in some way, and may jeopardize the safety and security of the United States.

Because of terrorist attacks over the years, and the fact that espionage is considered to be an act of terrorism, the harshness of the penalties for espionage has increased in New York, and when certain people are given control over classified information, they are responsible for taking caring of that information, meaning that they could be guilty of espionage if they negligently or willfully allow it to obtained by any unauthorized individual.

Laws and Penalties

As a potential act of terrorism, espionage is a very serious crime in the United States and New York. The statutes surrounding espionage provide for a wide range of penalties, which generally depend on the specific nature of the information that was lost or withheld, and how valuable that information is according to relevant authorities. Many punishments for espionage depend significantly on the facts of the case in question, and the nature of the defendant. In fact, under the Uniform Military Justice code, members in the armed forces who engage in an act of espionage are liable to receive a death sentence. On the other hand, civilians who engage in espionage receive significantly harsh punishments, including the potential for life imprisonment.

Espionage cases in New York are evaluated according to a point value, and each offense has a basic level of points. The authorities will consider a number of factors in their perspective of the crime, which is then used to determine the sentence. For example, sending national defense information to a foreign government is given a base level of 42 when the information is deemed Top Secret.

In addition to the possibility of being prosecuted within New York on a federal level, the act of espionage also applies to perpetrators who victimize citizens of the US, affect the US in a substantial way, or are classed as a US citizen themselves.

Espionage Defenses

The strict nature of espionage law in recent years has made it increasingly difficult for people convicted of this crime to protect or defend themselves in New York and other courts. Sometimes, lawyers attempt to pursue the defense that the people accused of espionage were not aware that the information that they were sharing was privileged. Unfortunately, accidentally losing sensitive information that falls into the wrong hands is also considered an act of espionage.

In some circumstances, it might be possible to argue a defense of entrapment, wherein the accused argue that they were coerced into committing a crime of espionage, and in others, the lawyer may suggest that there is a reasonable excuse for the defendant’s behavior, such as diminished capacity or insanity. A diminished capacity or insanity plea may be the best option in most espionage cases wherein proof is available against the defendant. However, if an insanity plea is given, then it will be up to the defendants to prove insanity, as well as to prove that they were suffering from diminished capacity during the time in which the information was lost or shared.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations regarding espionage in New York is quite different to the statutes that are used for other federal crimes. For example, although the federal statute known as USC 3282 generally provides that there should be a five-year statute of limitations for most federal crimes across the United States, this rule changes in the case of espionage. Because of the difficult nature of the crime and the fight against terrorism, it has been agreed that espionage cases can be tried and prosecuted for a minimum of ten years following the alleged act of espionage.

New York Espionage Cases

Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.