Federal law makes harboring or concealing another person from arrest a crime. This crime could lead to substantial fines and custody in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for up to five years.
Simply put, suppose you help prevent somebody from being arrested. In that case, you could face federal criminal charges for violating 18 U.S.C. 1071, concealing a person from arrest law, and possibly various state laws.
It's illegal to aid a fugitive from justice under state and federal statutes. Helping a fugitive in any manner, whether concealing or helping them get away, can result in criminal charges. Harboring a wanted fugitive means knowingly hiding them from an investigation, or they are actively a wanted criminal by federal law enforcement authorities.
Notably, being a "fugitive from justice" does not mean they escaped from prison. Instead, it means a person under a federal indictment or information who did not attend a hearing after a federal court issued a bench warrant.
Under this federal statute, you can violate this law under all the following circumstances:
- A federal warrant was issued for somebody's arrest;
- You knowingly harbored or concealed the person in the warrant;
- You knew that a warrant was issued for their arrest, and
- You intended to prevent the discovery or arrest of this person.
Notably, the term “harbor” means to shelter or hide someone. Let's review this federal law in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
18 U.S.C. Chapter 49 contains separate federal laws regarding fugitives from justice based on the type of illegal conduct.
As noted, helping somebody evade arrest is illegal as defined under 18 U.S.C. 1071, commonly known as “harboring or concealing a person from arrest” law, which says, “Whoever harbors or conceals any person for whose arrest a warrant or process has been issued under the provisions of any law of the United States, so as to prevent his discovery and arrest, after notice or knowledge of the fact that a warrant or process has been issued for the apprehension of such person, shall be….”
The statute also says that “if the warrant or process issued on a charge of felony, or after conviction of such person of any offense,” the penalties are increased to five years in federal prison.
Suppose someone has been charged with a state crime, and you help them avoid arrest. In that case, you could face criminal charges under local state laws.
In other words, helping somebody evade arrest only becomes a federal crime when they are evading arrest or wanted for a federal offense. Further, it must be proven that you knew they were facing criminal charges but decided to help, harbor, or conceal them anyway.
In other words, you could be found guilty of violating 18 U.S. Code 1071 harboring or concealing a person from arrest if a warrant was issued or the arrest process began, and you knew about it but still took steps to help that person avoid apprehension.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 49 Fugitives from Justice has some federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1071 concealing a person from arrest, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1072 Concealing an escaped prisoner means to willfully harbor or hide a prisoner that escaped from the attorney general's lawful custody or a federal correctional institute.
- 18 U.S.C. 1073 Flight to avoid prosecution or giving testimony means moving someone in interstate or foreign commerce to avoid prosecution, confined after a conviction, or to give testimony in any criminal proceedings.
- 18 U.S.C. 1074 Flight to avoid prosecution for damaging or destroying any building or other real or personal property means if somebody moved or traveled in interstate or foreign commerce intending to avoid custody or confinement under conviction.
Sometimes, related crimes can be used for plea negotiations with the federal prosecution for lesser offenses to avoid more serious consequences and punishment for a more serious charge.
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C 1071?
Suppose you are convicted of harboring or concealing a person from arrest. In that case, you could be charged with either a federal misdemeanor or felony, which will always depend on the charges the person evading arrest is facing.
In other words, if they are evading arrest for a federal misdemeanor, helping conceal them will result in a federal misdemeanor charge. Likewise, if the evading arrest is for a federal felony, you will face a federal felony charge. Thus, the penalties can include the following:
- If concealing them from arrest is charged as a federal misdemeanor charge, then after conviction, you can face a fine and up to one year in prison;
- If concealing them from arrest is charged as a federal felony, then upon conviction, you can be fined and face up to five years in prison;
- Concealing an escaped prisoner under 18 U.S.C. 1072 is a federal felony that carries up to three years in federal prison;
- Fleeing to avoid prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1073 is a federal felony that carries up to five years in federal prison;
- Flight to avoid prosecution related to damaging property is also a federal felony with a fine and up to five years in prison.
What Are the Defenses Against for 18 U.S.C 1071?
Suppose you are under an investigation or indicted for one of the above federal laws. In that case, you must retain a federal criminal defense lawyer who can prepare a strategy for the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
First, recall that a federal prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime to convict you. Thus, a common strategy is challenging them to avoid a conviction or obtain an acquittal.
Perhaps we can argue that you had a lack of knowledge or that you were under duress. For example, recall that to get a conviction for concealing somebody from arrest, it must be proven that you knew the person was wanted for a federal crime.
Suppose you just let the fugitive from justice stay with you without knowing they were evading criminal charges, and it can be proven. In that case, it could be a complete defense against these federal charges.
Suppose you allowed the fugitive to stay at your residence or helped harbor or conceal them because you felt threatened by the defendant through coercion or duress. Suppose you were concerned about the well-being of your family based on threats of harm unless you helped them. In that case, this could also be a complete defense if it can be proven that it occurred.
The prosecutor can add criminal charges against the fugitive for forcing you to harbor or conceal them if duress can be proven. Suppose the fugitive was not apprehended at your residence. In that case, the prosecutor must provide evidence to link you to the culprit to show that help was rendered.
We offer a free case evaluation by phone or via the contact form. We serve clients on federal criminal issues throughout the United States. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.