Even if you didn't take part in a crime, you can still face criminal charges if you tried to hide someone formally accused of a crime or helped them avoid prosecution. The federal government and all states have laws against concealing a person from arrest, and 18 U.S.C § 1071 defines federal laws regarding the offense.
If you have been arrested on federal charges of concealing a person from arrest, the circumstances and facts involving your case will determine the type of charges you can face, and they will be vital in helping you prepare an effective defense.
Penalties upon conviction can include prison or probation, along with fines. Additionally, your reputation may be negatively affected, and you will likely experience other adverse effects on your life and future.
For help defending yourself against the charges and increasing your chances of obtaining favorable results, you need an attorney with experience defending against federal charges in Pennsylvania district courts.
What Is Federal Concealing Person from Arrest?
The federal government makes it a crime to harbor or conceal someone who is wanted for a federal offense. However, the government must establish four elements in order to prosecute:
- A federal warrant had been issued against the person.
- You knew they had a warrant issued against them.
- You knowingly concealed the fugitive from law enforcement.
- You intentionally helped them avoid discovery or arrest.
The level of the charge you can face will depend on the level of charges the fugitive is facing. In other words, if the person is wanted for felony charges, you can receive a felony charge if you help them avoid arrest, prosecution, or incarceration.
If you helped someone wanted for a federal felony, you could face up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $5,000.
If the person is wanted for a federal misdemeanor, you will likely receive a misdemeanor charge. You can face up to one year in federal prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
Other Related Charges and Penalties
Additionally, the government defines other federal offenses related to concealing a person from arrest. Each offense listed is a felony, and you can face up to three to five years in federal prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
It is a federal crime to knowingly conceal a fugitive who escaped from the “custody of the attorney general” or from federal prison. This carries a three-year maximum prison sentence.
You can also face charges if you assist a convict in their escape from custody, which includes inciting a disturbance to draw attention away from them.
You can also receive federal charges if you moved or traveled in “interstate or foreign commerce” to do any of the following:
- Help someone avoid prosecution, custody, or confinement after conviction
- Help someone avoid providing testimony in felony criminal proceedings
- Help someone avoid their court service or answer a contempt of court charge
These offenses fall under the Fugitive Felon Act, which permits the federal government to help locate and apprehend fugitives facing state crimes. Although the federal government can prosecute violations on its own, the Act also states: “Normally, the federal complaint will be dismissed when the fugitive has been apprehended and turned over to state authorities to await interstate extradition.”
According to 18 U.S.C. § 1074, it is also a federal crime to flee to avoid prosecution or confinement for “damaging or destroying by fire or explosive” any building or other real or personal property.
Pennsylvania Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution
The state can also prosecute you for concealing a person from arrest, or related offenses, if the person is wanted for committing a crime in Pennsylvania. Title 18 Pa. C.S. § 5105 defines the state's laws for “hindering apprehension or prosecution,” and the offenses closely follow federal statutes.
In Pennsylvania, if you help someone charged or convicted of a first- or second-degree felony, you can receive a third-degree felony charge. Penalties include a maximum prison sentence of seven years and fines of up to $15,000.
If the person is wanted for a misdemeanor, you can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor and face up to two years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Possible Defenses for Federal Concealing Person from Arrest
You want to develop an effective defense against your federal charges, and the following are some possible methods:
- Lack of knowledge – The law clearly states that you knew the person was wanted for committing a crime when you tried to help them. Perhaps they just showed up at your door or called you for help, and you had no way of knowing (or even suspecting) they were wanted by law enforcement. They could have also lied to you when you asked them or made up a story or alibi.
- Link to the fugitive – If the fugitive was not found at your home, the prosecution will have to provide evidence that you aided the fugitive in their attempts to avoid capture or prosecution. If prosecutors don't have a lot of evidence, or it's largely circumstantial, you may be able to have the charges dismissed or, at the very least, create reasonable doubt in the jury.
- Duress – The law also states that you had to have acted intentionally. If you can show the fugitive forced or coerced you into helping them escape custody or elude arrest, then you should be able to successfully challenge the prosecution's claim that you committed the act willfully.
Incidentally, if you can prove you acted under duress, the prosecution can add charges against the defendant for forcing you to commit the act.
Get Help from an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
You likely have a lot of defense options, but they will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. You can call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out our contact form to request a full case evaluation regarding your rights and options.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience defending clients in Pennsylvania's eastern and middle district courts for concealing a person from arrest and other federal charges. He can help you build a solid defense and fight for your future.