If you tried to hide someone wanted for committing a crime or you tried to help them avoid prosecution, you could be arrested and charged for concealing a person from arrest. In some cases, the crime falls under federal jurisdiction, and 18 U.S.C § 1071 outlines the elements of the crime and the potential penalties you could receive if convicted.
Penalties can include prison and fines, and you will likely experience many serious adverse effects on your reputation, liberties, and future. The facts and circumstances of your case are crucial in helping you answer the charges and develop an effective defense. Therefore, you should consult an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who has tried cases in New Jersey district courts.
Federal Concealing Person from Arrest
The federal government prohibits someone from helping another person who is wanted for committing a federal crime to avoid arrest and prosecution. This can include hiding them in your house, helping them alter their appearance, or providing them with money, transportation, or other means to avoid capture.
Before the government can prosecute, it must establish the following four elements:
- The person had a federal arrest warrant against them.
- You knew they were wanted by the authorities.
- You actually harbored or concealed the fugitive.
- You had every intention to prevent them from being discovered or arrested.
The crime can be either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the level of charge the fugitive is facing. For example, if they are wanted for a felony, you could receive a felony charge as well.
The maximum prison sentence for a felony conviction is five years and up to $5,000 in fines. For a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
Related Federal Charges and Penalties
The government has other crimes that are closely related to concealing a person from arrest, and each of the offenses is a felony.
- Conceal convicted fugitive - The law prohibits you from knowingly concealing a fugitive who escaped from federal prison or the “custody of the Attorney General.” The maximum prison sentence upon conviction is three years.
- Avoid prosecution or giving testimony - You can also receive federal charges if you moved or traveled in interstate or foreign commerce to help an accused person or convict:
- Avoid prosecution, custody, or confinement
- Avoid providing testimony in court
- Avoid answering a contempt of court charge or completing their required court service
The Fugitive Felon Act allows the federal government to help states locate and apprehend fugitives who are wanted for state crimes. The U.S. government can search for fugitives wanted for federal crimes and prosecute them on its own; however, the Act states: “Normally, the federal complaint will be dismissed when the fugitive has been apprehended and turned over to state authorities to await interstate extradition.”
- Flight from arson prosecution – It is also a crime to move or travel in interstate or foreign commerce to avoid prosecution for damaging or destroying buildings or property by using fire or explosives.
Each of the last two offenses carries a five-year maximum prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines.
Additionally, you can face charges if you assist a convict in their escape from custody, and penalties will depend on the type of crime and level of offense.
New Jersey Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution
You may also face charges in New Jersey for hindering apprehension or prosecution if the crime occurred in the state.
You could be charged with second-degree hindering if you used force or intimidation while committing the offense. The maximum prison sentence is 10 years, and a conviction includes the presumption of incarceration. This means you can receive prison time even if it's your first offense. You may also face fines of up to $100,000.
You can also be charged with third- and fourth-degree hindering apprehension. These crimes did not involve force, but you provided false information or perpetrated the offense in other ways. Offenses involving spouses, partners, and immediate relatives are typically fourth-degree. Maximum prison sentences can go as high as five years, with fines of up to $10,000 or more.
Additionally, you could face charges if you thwarted capture or prosecution through a disorderly act, such as creating a disturbance so the person could get away. You could face up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
Possible Defenses for Federal Concealing Person from Arrest
Considering the potential impacts on your life and future if you are convicted of the crime, you want to build a solid defense against the federal charges. A few options may include:
- Lack of knowledge – Since the government must prove you knew the person was wanted for committing a federal crime, you may be able to show you had no knowledge of their arrest warrant. You may have had no reason to suspect they were wanted, or they could have lied to you when you asked.
- Duress – Prosecutors must also prove you acted of your own free will. If the other person threatened or coerced you into helping them avoid capture, you may be able to successfully challenge the government's claim you acted intentionally. Also, if you can prove you acted under duress, the government can bring additional charges against the defendant.
- Your link to the fugitive – The government will have to establish a clear link between you and the fugitive and prove you knowingly and intentionally helped them. If prosecutors do not have a lot of solid evidence linking you to the crime, you may be able to challenge the charges outright and have the charges dismissed or create reasonable doubt in the jury to obtain an acquittal.
The specific facts involving your case will determine your options for defense, and you need to speak with an attorney who has experience defending against federal charges.
Contact an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience defending clients in New Jersey's federal district court for concealing a person from arrest and other federal charges. He can evaluate your case, advise you of your options, and help you build a solid defense.
Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a complete and confidential consultation regarding your rights and options.