Federal Crime of Concealing Person from Arrest – 18 U.S.C. § 1071
Anyone accused of taking measures to help prevent someone from being arrested can face criminal charges themselves for concealing a person from arrest under federal law and could also be charged under various state laws.
Aiding a fugitive from justice is illegal and defined under both state and federal statutes in the United States. Put simply, if you help a fugitive in any manner, whether by concealing them or help them flee, then you are facing serious criminal charges.
In a federal criminal investigation, harboring a wanted fugitive means to knowingly hide them from an investigation or they are actively a wanted criminal from federal authorities.
Readers should note that a “fugitive from justice” doesn't mean they escaped from prison, while they were under arrest, or during questioning by federal law enforcement agents. Rather, it refers to someone under federal indictment or information who didn't show up for a hearing after a federal court issued a bench warrant.
In a case of a fugitive from justice defined under federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 1071, concealing an individual from arrest, there are specific elements of the crime that must be proven by the prosecutor to convict someone of this offense, which are reviewed below.
The federal statutes defining criminal conduct regarding fugitives from justice are in 18 U.S.C. Chapter 49, which has separate laws for different types of illegal conduct, elements of the crime, along with imposing penalties for a conviction.
Law enforcement is protected by law when they are seeking to arrest an individual for allegedly committing a crime. If you are facing charges for allegedly helping someone evade law enforcement, then it is important that you speak to an attorney right away.
Our federal criminal defense lawyers will review the laws below to give you a better understanding.
What is Concealing Someone from Arrest?
Helping someone evade arrest is illegal under federal law at 18 U.S.C. § 1071 and is known as concealing a person from arrest, which states the following:
- “Whoever harbors or conceals someone with an arrest person issued under United States laws, to prevent their discovery and arrest, with knowledge a warrant was issued for their apprehension, will be fined or imprisoned, or both.”
The statute further states that if the case involves a felony charge, or after their conviction of the offense, then the penalties include a fine or up to five years in a federal prison, or both.
This type of charge is also found at the state level and is charged as a state crime when someone helps another evade state law enforcement agencies for an alleged state crime.
Helping someone evade arrest becomes a federal charge when the person evading arrest is wanted for a federal charge. This charge requires that the person helping another evade arrest knows that the person is facing arrest or criminal charges and decide to harbor or help conceal them anyway.
What are the Elements of the Crime?
As noted above, there are several “elements of the crime” that must be proven for a conviction for 18 U.S.C. § 1071 concealing a person from arrest, including:
- a federal warrant had been issued for the person's arrest;
- the person concealing them knew that a warrant was issued;
- the person actually concealed the fugitive from law enforcement;
- the person acted with intent to prevent fugitive's discovery or arrest.
Put simply, you could be found guilty of 18 U.S. Code Section 1071 concealing a person from arrest if a warrant had been issued or the arrest process began, and you knew about it, but still took steps to help them avoid apprehension.
What Are the Related Federal Crimes?
There are some related crimes for concealing a person from arrest that fall under the umbrella of this chapter. All of them involve flight from prosecution, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1072 – concealing escaped prisoner means to willfully harbor or hide a prisoner who escaped from the lawful custody of the attorney general or who escaped from a federal correctional institute.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1073 – flight to avoid prosecution or giving testimony means moving in interstate or foreign commerce to avoid prosecution, confined after conviction, or to give testimony in 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 a defendant moved or traveled in interstate or foreign commerce with intent to avoid custody or avoid confinement under conviction.
These related above crimes can be used to give alternative legal theories or allow for negotiations for pleas to potentially lesser offenses to avoid more serious consequences and punishment from a more serious charge.
Further, 18 U.S.C. § 752(a) assisting or instigating escape can be charged if you provided an inmate assistance to escape from lawful custody. The penalties for this federal offense also vary based on the type of crime.
What Are the Penalties for Concealing Person from Arrest?
Concealing a person from arrest can result in either a federal misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the charges the person evading arrest faces.
If the person evading arrest faces a federal misdemeanor, then helping conceal them from arrest will result in a federal misdemeanor charge. Likewise, if the person evading arrest faces a federal felony, then helping conceal them from arrest will result in a federal felony charge.
If concealing a person from arrest is charged as a federal misdemeanor charge, then upon conviction, a person can be imprisoned for up to one year and fined by the court.
If concealing a person from arrest is charged as a federal felony, then upon conviction, a person can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined by the court.
Concealing a person from arrest has the lowest potential penalties under this chapter of the U.S. Code. The remainder of offenses listed in this chapter must always be charged as felonies.
Concealing an escaped prisoner under 18 U.S.C. § 1072 is a federal felony resulting in up to three years in federal prison. Fleeing to avoid prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1073 is a federal felony resulting in up to five years in federal prison.
Flight to avoid prosecution relating to damaging property is also a federal felony, resulting in up to five years in prison and a fine by the court.
What Are the Best Defenses?
If you have been charged under any of the statutes listed above, it's crucial for your federal criminal defense attorney to know what exactly a prosecutor is required to prove for your specific crime.
The prosecutor has to be able to prove all the elements to obtain a conviction, otherwise you should be acquitted on the charges.
When examining concealing a person from arrest case, two defenses are most commonly used:
- lack of knowledge, and
For a prosecutor to secure a conviction on a concealing somebody from arrest charge, they must prove that the defendant knew that the person is wanted for a federal crime.
If the defendant simply let the fugitive come and stay with them without knowing that the fugitive was facing and evading criminal charges, then this can serve as a defense to any criminal charges regarding concealing someone from arrest.
If the defendant let the fugitive stay at their residence or helped harbor and conceal them, but only did so because they felt threatened by the defendant, this can serve as a defense to concealing someone from arrest as they did not willingly do so.
If this is true, the prosecutor can also add criminal charges against the fugitive for forcing the defendant to harbor or conceal them.
If the fugitive was not apprehended at the defendant's residence, the prosecutor must provide evidence to link the defendant to the fugitive to show that help was rendered.
The law firm of Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County with two office locations. We serve clients in California and throughout the United States.
For an initial consultation, you can call our firm at 877-781-1570, or fill out our online contact form.