Harboring a Fugitive in New York

Harboring a fugitive in New York to prevent his discovery and arrest, and similarly, concealing an escaped prisoner, are serious federal offenses, punishable by up to five years imprisonment under certain circumstances. Should a fugitive friend or family member approach you and request your assistance in hiding from law enforcement, you should immediately contact the best New York federal attorney you can find for advice in order to prevent a potentially lengthy term of imprisonment for yourself.

How Does Federal Law Define Harboring a Fugitive?

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1071, whoever hides any person who is the subject of a federal arrest warrant to prevent their discovery, and with knowledge that a warrant has already been issued for such individual’s apprehension, may receive a fine and face imprisonment of up to one year. Seee.g.United States v. Donaldson, 793 F.2d 498, 502 (2d Cir. 1986). However, if the arrest warrant charges a felony offense, i.e., one punishable by more than one-year imprisonment, or was issued following the conviction for any federal offense, the maximum punishment is increased to five years imprisonment. E.g.United States v. Faul, 748 F.2d 1204, 1223 (8th Cir. 1984).

To secure a conviction for this crime, the government must establish the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • A federal warrant has been issued for a fugitive’s arrest
  • The defendant knew that the warrant had been issued
  • The defendant hid the fugitive
  • The defendant intended to prevent the fugitive’s discovery or arrest

United States v. Bowens, 224 F.3d 302, 309 (4th Cir. 2000) citing United States v. Silva, 745 F.2d 840, 848 (4th Cir. 1984).

Prosecution for Harboring an Escaped Prisoner

Similarly, according to 18 U.S.C. § 1072, when someone willfully harbors any prisoner following their escape from either a federal correctional institution or the custody of the United States Attorney General, they could be sentenced to prison for up to three years. Notably, this includes any inmate who has been committed to the custody of the United States Marshal’s Service (United States v. Howard, 545 F.2d 1044, 1045 (6th Cir. 1976)), or who escaped from a state correctional institution during the service of a federal sentence pursuant to a contract with the United States government. United States v. Eaglin, 571 F.2d 1069, 1073 (9th Cir. 1977).

Is Harboring an Undocumented Immigrant a Federal Crime?

Under 18 U.S.C. §1324, it is against the law for anyone to help someone they know to be an undocumented immigrant enter the United States illegally or to transport, conceal, or harbor such a person knowingly and intentionally. It is also a federal offense to encourage a foreign national to come to the United States if they know that such an action would be a violation of U.S. immigration law.

Different penalties may be available upon conviction for harboring an undocumented immigrant depending on whether someone did so for personal profit or not. Harboring an illegal immigrant without any commercial motivation is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment while doing so for profit can be punished by a ten-year prison sentence as well as numerous fines. Additionally, if an undocumented immigrant that someone is hiding is seriously hurt or killed, this party could face a maximum of 20 years or life in prison, respectively.

How Does New York State Law Address Harboring a Fugitive?

A person who knowingly harbors a fugitive from the law in New York may be charged with the offense of hindering prosecution if that fugitive is suspected of committing or has been convicted of a felony offense. According to NYPL §§205.55 through 205.65, a person may face charges of one of three different degrees of hindering prosecution depending on the severity of the felony the fugitive in question committed.

Hindering prosecution in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor offense that entails harboring someone who committed any kind of felony. However, hindering prosecution can be considered a Class E felony or a Class D felony if the fugitive in question respectively committed a Class C or B felony, or a Class A felony.

What Defenses Could Be Used to Contest Allegations of Harboring a Fugitive?

All four elements of the offense defined under 18 U.S.C. §1071 must be proven for federal authorities to secure a conviction. Accordingly, if a defendant can prove that they did not know the person they harbored was a fugitive, did not know they had a warrant out for them or did not specifically mean to conceal that fugitive from law enforcement, they may be able to successfully contest your charges. In addition, someone cannot be prosecuted for harboring a fugitive if, at the time they were hiding them, this person did not yet have a warrant out for their arrest. A skilled defense attorney in New York could help someone determine the best defense for harboring a fugitive given the circumstances of their case.

Talk to a New York Attorney About Charges for Harboring a Fugitive

Retaining a dedicated federal criminal defense attorney to help you in any prosecution for harboring a fugitive in New York is crucial. Our Attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have successfully handled countless federal cases, giving us the skill and knowledge to handle your case effectively. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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