Under federal laws, assisting somebody in escaping from lawful custody is a crime. Simply put, if you help someone try to escape, you can face serious federal criminal charges.
While most escape-related cases are prosecuted in state courts, there are certain circumstances where the case would be handled in a federal courtroom which carries more severe penalties.
18 U.S. C. Chapter 35 has several federal statutes dealing with escape and rescue. Each law defines different types of illegal acts and penalizes anyone convicted.
18 U.S.C. 752(a) says, “Whoever rescues or attempts to rescue or instigates, aids or assists the escape, or attempt to escape, of any person arrested upon a warrant or other process issued under any law of the United States, or committed to the custody of the Attorney General or to any institution or facility by his direction, shall if the custody or confinement is by virtue of an arrest on a charge of felony, or conviction of any offense, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; or if the custody or confinement is for extradition, or for exclusion or expulsion proceedings under the immigration laws, or by virtue of an arrest or charge of or for a misdemeanor, and prior to conviction, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
In other words, if you are convicted under this statute for the federal crime of instigating or assisting escape, you are facing up to five years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons if the person you helped was confined for a felony offense. Let's review the federal laws dealing with escape below.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
Suppose you are accused of instigating an escape or helping somebody escape from the lawful custody of a federal officer. In that case, the prosecutor must be able to prove all the crucial factors beyond a reason of doubt to secure a conviction, including the following:
- They were in the lawful custody of a federal officer or attorney general; and
- Defendant knowingly and willfully rescued someone in custody, or
- Defendant attempted to rescue someone in custody; or
- Instigated, aided, or assisted in someone's escape or attempt.
Other Things You Should Know About This Law
Some other factors you should know about 18 U.S.C. 752 instigating or assisting escape law include the following:
- The person, a defendant, was trying to help escape must be in lawful federal custody, meaning they were under arrest and legally detained;
- The terms “knowingly and willfully” means the defendant must have intended on purpose to help someone escape federal custody;
- A defendant must take an “overt act,” or direct step, actually helping someone escape, attempt, instigate, aid, assist, etc. Simply talking about helping someone escape is insufficient to support charges.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 35 Escape and Rescue has several federal laws related to 18 U.S.C. 752 Instigating or assisting escape, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 751 - Prisoners in the custody of institution or officer;
- 18 U.S.C. 753 - Rescue to prevent execution;
- 18 U.S.C. 755 - Officer permitting escape;
- 18 U.S.C. 756 - Internee of belligerent nation;
- 18 U.S.C. 757 - Prisoners of war or enemy aliens;
- 18 U.S.C. 758 – High-speed flight from immigration checkpoint.
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 752?
The penalties for the federal offense of assisting in, or instigating the escape of, a person lawfully in the custody of a federal official will depend on the circumstances of the case, such as what the person was in custody for. The penalties include the following:
- Up to five years in prison and fines if the person in custody was attempting to escape a felony or conviction of any crime;
- One-year sentence and fines if they were attempting to elude extradition or expulsion of their immigration proceedings or they were trying to avoid a misdemeanor conviction;
- One-year imprisonment and fines if the person attempting to escape was committed before their eighteen birthday or they were involved in a juvenile delinquency proceeding;
- 18 U.S.C. 752(a) imposes a penalty of up to five years in prison for someone who instigates, aids or assists the person's escape or attempts to escape.
- 18 U.S.C. 755 imposes five years in prison when an officer has a prisoner in custody and intentionally helps them escape or up to one year for negligently allowing them to escape.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 752?
Suppose you've been charged with the federal crime of assisting or instigating the escape of a suspected criminal. In that case, you must consult with a federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Recall from above that all the elements of the crime must be proven to convict you. We may challenge one or more of these crucial factors to avoid a conviction. Maybe we can create reasonable doubt or persuade the prosecution that there is insufficient evidence to convict you.
Maybe we can prove that you did not knowingly and willfully help or attempt to help rescue someone. Perhaps we can prove that the person was not in the lawful custody of a federal officer.
Perhaps the best defense strategy is negotiating with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea bargain, such as when they have the evidence to convict you or when your guilt is not in doubt. However, if necessary, we are prepared to take the case to a federal trial.
We offer a free case evaluation and represent clients throughout the United States on federal criminal matters. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.