Federal Crime of Assisting or Instigating Escape – 18 U.S.C. § 752(a)
Clearly, in the United States, it's a crime anywhere to provide someone assistance who is attempting to escape from lawful custody. Put simply, if you assist or instigate an escape from prison, you will be facing serious criminal charges.
Under certain circumstances, assisting someone with an escape lead to federal charges that are much more severe than facing charges at state level.
Federal statutes on escape are primarily contained within 18 U.S. C. Chapter 35, which is titled “escape and rescue.” discussed below.
Each statute within in the chapter describes specific type of illegal act, lays out what a federal prosecutor needs to prove for a conviction, and imposes legal penalties for a convicted defendant.
For example, 18 U.S. Code Section 752(a) defines the federal crime of instigating or assisting escape.
If convicted, you are facing up to five years in prison for helping someone escape custody when they are confined for a felony case, and up to one year in prison on a misdemeanor case, or charges under immigration laws.
If you've been charged with the federal crime of assisting or instigating the escape of a suspected criminal, you may be feeling overwhelmed.
You need to start developing a strategy to obtain the best possible outcome, which starts with legal consultation with a professional.
This page from our federal criminal defense lawyers is intended to explain the crime and possible defenses so you might gain a better understating of the law.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a Conviction?
As noted, the federal law 18 USC § 752(a) makes it a federal crime for anyone to instigate the escape or help someone escape in any way from the lawful custody of a federal officer.
Because this is a federal crime, it carries a much harsher set of consequences than a state crime would.
To prove that a defendant committed the federal crime of assisting or instigating escape, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime, including the following:
- person named in the indictment was lawfully in the custody of a federal officer, the attorney general; and
- person knowingly and willfully,
- rescued the person in custody, or
- tried to rescue them, or
- instigated, aided, or assisted in the escape or attempt to escape of that person.
Lawfully in the custody of a federal officer
The individual the defendant is trying to help escape must be lawfully in the custody of a federal officer. That means that they must have been arrested for a crime and being held legally.
For example, this crime would not have a basis if the individual you were trying to help escape was being held against their will, without cause, by a federal official.
The person knowingly and willfully
The prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly and willfully assisted, or attempted to assist, in the other defendant's escape. To commit the crime “knowingly and willfully,” the defendant must have:
- had the intent to help or attempt to help someone who was lawfully in the custody of a federal officer escape;
- this was done purposefully.
An individual charged with assisting escape cannot simply have held the door open for a defendant escaping custody. They must have had the intent to help the defendant escape custody in some way.
Rescued the person in custody, or tried to rescue them, or instigated, aided, or assisted in the escape or attempt to escape
The defendant must have actually tried to rescue the person in custody, actually rescued them, or acted in some way to assist the escape or attempt.
This element requires action. A defendant who simply talks about wanting to help a defendant escape lawful custody will not be guilty of assisting or instigating escape if they did not overtly act on the idea in some way.
What are the Punishments?
The specific punishments will vary based on the circumstances. The penalties for the federal crime of assisting in, or instigating the escape of, a person lawfully in the custody of a federal official depends on what the person in custody was in custody for. For example:
- there is a penalty of up to five years of imprisonment and fines if the person in custody was trying to escape a felony or conviction of any offense;
- there is a penalty of a one-year confinement and fines if the person escaping was trying to allude extradition, exclusion, or expulsion of their immigration proceedings or trying to avoid a misdemeanor conviction;
- there is a penalty of one-year imprisonment and fines if the individual trying to escape was committed before their 18th birthday and is involved in a juvenile delinquency proceeding;
- In 18 U.S.C. 752(a), there is a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and fines for a person who instigates, aids, or assists the person's escape or attempt to escape.
The statute further lays out penalties for officials who aid in escape. For instance, 18 U.S.C. 755 states an officer who has a prisoner in custody can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for intentionally a prisoner escape, or up to one year for negligently allowing a prisoner to escape.
Related Federal Statutes
18 U.S.C. § 751 – prisoners in 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.
Another related federal crime includes concealing a person from arrest defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1071, which is described as assisting someone from being arrested.
Defenses to the Federal Crime of Assisting Escape
To prove that you did not commit the federal crime of assisting or instigating an escape of an individual in the lawful custody of a federal officer, you must show that one of the elements above has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.
If we can show that you did not knowingly and willfully help or attempt to help rescue the individual, you could not be proven guilty of this federal crime.
Similarly, if we can show that the individual was not in the lawful custody of a federal officer, you could not be proven guilty of this federal crime.
Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney will be key in creating a strategic defense. We might be able to negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a favorable plea bargain, but are prepared to take the case to trial if appropriate.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County, but we serve clients charged with a federal crime in the entire state of California and throughout the United States.
You can contact us for an initial consultation at 877-781-1570, or fill out our contact form.