New York Federal Misprision of a Felony Lawyer

The crime of Misprision of a Felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 4, occurs when an individual is aware that another has committed a felony offense and both parties fail to notify the authorities of its occurrence and affirmatively takes steps to aid in its concealment. As the United States Supreme Court has recognized, the crime originates from the English common law’s recognition of one’s “duty to raise the hue and cry and report felonies to the authorities,” and has further described the offense as “the concealment of a felony which a man knows, but never assented to [become] either principal or accessory.” Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 696 (1972).

Importantly, while it is rare that a defendant is initially charged with this crime, experienced federal criminal defense attorneys may be able to convince a prosecutor that it be utilized in lieu of the underlying substantive offense for the purposes of a guilty plea because it represents a significant charge-down – and may be the difference between the defendant serving a lengthy term of imprisonment and none at all. If you are currently facing charges for this offense, contacting a New York federal misprision of a felony lawyer may be in your best interests.

How Does Federal Law Define Misprision of a Felony?

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4, anyone who has knowledge of the commission of a felony and conceals it or does not make it known to some judge or other authority of the United States may face fines and no more than three years of incarceration. Prosecutors must establish four factors to demonstrate that a defendant is guilty of this crime.

First, they must show that the principal committed and completed the alleged felony and that the defendant had full knowledge of that fact. Additionally, the defendant failed to notify the authorities and took steps to conceal the crime. United States v. Cefalu, 85 F.3d 964, 969 (2d Cir. 1996) citing United States v. Ciambrone, 750 F.2d 1416, 1417 (9th Cir. 1984); United States v. Baez, 732 F.2d 780, 782 (10th Cir. 1984).

It is extremely rare for misprision of a felony offenses to be prosecuted at the state level, primarily because most states use different terms when referring to similar behavior. For instance, in the state of New York, a person accused of helping a felon avoid arrest might be charged with being an “accessory after the fact.” Accordingly, federal misprision of a felony charges generally only apply when the felony in question was a violation of federal law that fell within the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement authorities.

What Actions May Constitute Misprision of a Felony?

Generally, a person must actively do something that helps obscure a felony offense in order to be charged with and convicted of misprision of a felony. For example, someone making a false statement to police that they were not aware of a friend or colleague’s felony offense may constitute a criminal offense, but simply failing to report a felony offense to the police in the first place usually would not.

Other forms that misprision of a felony could take depending on the circumstances include knowingly harboring a felon and/or helping a felon hide evidence of their crime. Importantly, though, the federal prohibition on misprision of a felony does not supersede the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This means that a person is not compelled to report a felony offense if doing so would likely result in them incriminating themselves. One of our skilled attorneys in New York could determine if a person’s action may constitute misprision of a felony.

The Potential Utility of Misprision Offenses

As noted, the significance of this crime for an experienced criminal defense attorney is not merely in defending against its charge in a federal indictment or complaint, but conversely, convincing a prosecutor that a defendant be charged with Misprision of a Felony instead of the underlying substantive crime, such as bank fraud, extortion or narcotics distribution. This is because its use results in a significantly lesser sentence upon conviction than the underlying crime, which is up to nine offense levels lower pursuant to the United States Sentencing Guidelines and may represent significantly fewer years in prison. Further, this offense carries no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum term of incarceration of only three years, which is significantly less than most federal crimes.

The usefulness of this charge as a tool for a skilled New York defense lawyer is easily demonstrated by a recent federal misprison of a felony case handled by our firm, wherein we represented an individual charged with a violent crime: Collecting Extensions of Credit by Extortionate Means, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 894. If convicted after trial, this individual would have faced sentencing guidelines of at least 33 to 41 months imprisonment. A year of investigating the prosecution’s star cooperating witness, however, revealed that he had committed perjury and defrauded banks on multiple occasions, and had misled the government about these crimes during his proffer sessions with them. Faced with the possibility that their star witness would be left without a scintilla of credibility after his cross-examination at trial, the government agreed to offer our client the opportunity to plead guilty to Misprision of a Felony, with an accompanying sentencing guidelines range of four to ten months imprisonment. Our client accepted and was sentenced to a term of probation with no period of incarceration.

Talk to a New York Federal Misprision of a Felony Attorney Today

Hiring an experienced New York federal misprision of a felony lawyer to defend you in any prosecution is crucial. We could guide you through the legal process and work hard to mitigate any potential penalties you may be facing. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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