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Removal of Classified Documents

Under federal law it is a crime to remove and retain classified documents or other materials without authorization. Although defendants only face these charges in especially severe cases, it is still a risk, particularly for those who work in an official capacity for the government. Defendants who are convicted of this offense face jail time, fines, and damage to their personal reputations and are also often charged with additional crimes related to their original offense. To learn more about your charges and to begin working on your defense, please contact a member of our experienced white collar crime legal team today.

Elements of Unauthorized Removal of Classified Documents

A person can be convicted of unlawfully removing classified information if the prosecutor can establish that he or she:

  • Is an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant for the U.S.;
  • Came into possession of documents that contained classified information of the U.S. through his or her employment, position, or contract; and
  • Knowingly removed these documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain the materials at an unauthorized location.

Classified information is defined as information that:

  • Originated from or is possessed by the U.S. government;
  • Concerns national defense or foreign relations of the U.S.; and
  • Has been determined, pursuant to law or executive order and in the interests of national security, to require protection against unauthorized disclosure.

Executive Order 13526 further clarifies the definition of classified information, stating that it is any information that pertains to:

  • Foreign governments;
  • Foreign relations; and
  • Foreign activities.

Furthermore, the information, if disclosed, must be of the type that is reasonably expected to cause identifiable damage to the security of the country. If the materials in question were not marked and did not contain information that satisfies this definition, a defendant may be able to escape criminal prosecution. The law also specifically excludes those who have possession of classified material in order to provide it to Congress. Defendants who are convicted of this offense face up to one year in prison.

Before deciding to charge someone with unlawfully removing classified documents, prosecutors will look at a series of factors, including:

  • How much knowledge the accused had about the nature of the documents in question;
  • The potential damage to national security resulting from the removal;
  • Who sent, received, or stored the information; and
  • Whether the material was considered classified when it was transmitted.

After analyzing these factors, prosecutors will decide whether to charge the accused with a federal offense. In these cases, those who retain experienced defense attorneys stand the best chance of proving their innocence.

Unauthorized Disclosure

Other federal laws make it a crime to purposefully disclose classified information to an unauthorized person. Additional charges may be involved if a person, through his or her gross negligence, allowed national defense information to be removed.

Call a Member of Our Legal Team Today

These types of federal charges should be taken seriously, so if you are being investigated for this, or another white collar crime, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling (305) 670-9919 to have your case evaluated by an experienced Miami attorney who will ensure that your rights are protected.


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