Movie Quotes and Treason

J. Bradley Klepper
Attorney at Law

Ok folks…..I get it. Not every generation loves movie quotes quite like my generation. I am in my 50s and not quite sure which “group” I fall under. Am I a boomer? Am I a member of Gen X? Beats me. I don’t really lose much sleep over it to be honest.

What I do know is that….. (big over reaching statement coming here)…. is that everybody my age loves a good movie quote! In fact, I use some quotes so often that I don’t even think of them as movie quotes. They have just become shorthand and part of how I communicate.

For example:

“You’re killing me Smalls!” From the movie Sandlot. To express frustration.


“…..on my deathbed I will I will receive total consciousness. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.” From the movie Caddyshack (maybe the most quotable movie ever). For when thing may not be going my way.


“You keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means.” From the movie The Princess Bride. For when I am questioning a statement of concept.

It is the last quote that has really taken root at my house. Growing up with a lawyer for a father my kids learned at an early age that English is a wonderful language and it allows you to express yourself with precision. The key is not to just know a bunch of words but to understand what they really mean.

The other day, I was talking with my son and we were discussing a tweet from the President accusing another person or organization of Treason. My son looked at me and said “[y]ou keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means.”

It warmed my heart.

Not that it was motivated politically, but that he recognized that the thing that had allegedly been done was not Treason but something else.

In today’s society, we tend to throw the words “treason” and “treasonous” around willy-nilly. It is being used not to actually describe Treason but instead as shorthand for, in essence, disloyalty. This is not what Treason means.

From a legal perspective, Treason has a very specific meaning under Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. Quite simply, Treason is the betrayal of the U.S. by waging war against it or by consciously acting to aid its enemies.

Furthermore, Treason can only be brought as a criminal charge against an individual in a time of war and when at least two witnesses can attest to the over act.

When the Founding Fathers drafted the constitution they deliberately drafted a very narrow definition of Treason. By including the definition in the Constitution, the Founding Fathers removed from Congress the ability to define Treason. They also created a high burden of proof that must be met. This was done because the broad definition of Treason used in English common law at the time allowed the charge to be used as a political instrument. The Founding Father felt strongly about this. So much so that Treason is the only criminal offense defined in the U.S. Constitution.

Accordingly, cases of Treason are rare. However, the narrow legal interpretation set forth above was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1945 in Cramer v. United States.

In this case a German-born, naturalized U.S. Citizen was observed with two German spies by two FBI agents. Chagres were brought even though the FBI could not assert what was said between the parties. The Supreme Court rejected that argument that all that was required was a “little imagination” to determine what had been said.

“A citizen intellectually or emotionally may favor the enemy and harbor sympathies or convictions disloyal to this country’s policy or interest, but, so long as he commits no act of aid and comfort to the enemy, there is no Treason.” Justice Jackson stated in his majority opinion. “on the other hand, a citizen may take actions which do aid and comfort the enemy – making a speech critical of the government or opposing its measures, profiteering, striking in defense plants or essential work, and the hundred other things which impair our cohesion and diminish our strength – but if there is no (commitment) to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no Treason.”

As you can see, claims of disloyalty do not rise to the occasion of Treason. So to paraphrase The Princess Bride (with a little liberty taken)….

Vizzini: “TREASON!”

Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means.”

Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.

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