A friend calls you up and asks to stay over your house for a few nights. Without thinking twice, you accept the request and invite him to stay with you. The next day, police swarm your property, knock your door down, and draw their guns as they search your house for your friend. You had no idea that your friend was a wanted suspect, yet you were arrested and are now facing the charge of harboring a fugitive in Florida.
Situations like this occur quite often, which leaves innocent people booked, charged, and potentially facing years in jail as well as other serious consequences for allegedly committing this serious crime. It is important to realize that even if you did not participate in committing the underlying offense, law enforcement views you as having criminal responsibility for your role in delaying the discovery of the wanted fugitive.
Under these set of circumstances, having seasoned legal counsel is critical if you are dealing with harboring a fugitive charges in Florida. The Florida harboring a fugitive defense lawyers at Musca Law are ready to help you fight for your legal rights and interests as well as develop the strongest and most effective defense strategy on your behalf. Call Musca Law today at 1 (888) 484-5057 to schedule your free and completely confidential case evaluation.
What specifically is harboring a fugitive in Florida?
Under both state and federal law, a person who knowingly hides a wanted criminal from law enforcement can be charged with harboring a fugitive. Specifically, harboring a fugitive occurs when an individual helps another person who is suspected of or has been convicted of committing a crime escape from being arrested or facing punishment. The law is also applicable when a person aids in hiding a person who escaped from prison.
While the person who is accused of harboring a fugitive may not have been involved in committing the underlying crime, protecting those who have warrants for their arrest can result in serious consequences on both the state and federal level.
Federal charges for harboring a fugitive
Concealing a person from being arrested
A person who intentionally seeks to conceal or harbor a fugitive may be faced with federal charges pursuant to Title 18 U.S.C. §1071. Under this law, the prosecution must establish the following in order to convict someone of harboring a fugitive, which are:
- The prosecutor must show that the individual who was concealed had a federal arrest warrant issued against him or her;
- The prosecutor must establish that the accused has knowledge of the fugitive’s warrant for his or her arrest;
- The prosecutor must establish that the accused took certain steps to hide the fugitive; and
- The prosecutor must establish that the accused had the intention of assisting the fugitive in hiding from authorities.
The punishment for concealing an individual from being arrested may include steep fines, a penalty of up to one year in jail, or both. A person can face even more severe consequences if the fugitive’s arrest warrant was issued for a felony offense, or if the fugitive had already been convicted and is subsequently trying to avoid apprehension by authorities. If either of these cases, the accused may face steep monetary fines and/or up to five years in jail.
Concealing a prisoner who has escaped
Under both federal and state law, a person can face charges of harboring a fugitive in the event that he or she conceals from law enforcement a prisoner who has escaped. Under Title 18 U.S.C. §1072, a person who conceals or harbors a prisoner following his or her escape from jail can face imprisonment for up to three years.
Similarly, Florida State Statute §944.46 provides that it is a third-degree felony when a person harbors, conceals, or aids an escaped prisoner. He or she can face up to five years in jail as well as a monetary fine of $5,000.
Defenses to harboring a fugitive
One of the strongest defenses possible to the charge of harboring a fugitive is that the accused withdrew his or her support of the fugitive. Notwithstanding, it may be a challenge to establish this defense as there needs to be evidence that is clear-cut which establishes that the accused tried to discourage the harboring of the fugitive. An example of this defense is when the accused asserts that he or she did not desire to continue hiding the individual from law enforcement. Another way of establishing this defense is by alerting authorities as to the fugitive’s location. Taking either of these steps can result in the charges being dropped altogether or significantly reduced.
Another defense that may be available is that a qualified family member of the fugitive harbored him or her. Specifically, Florida is one of a number of states that exempts family members of fugitives from prosecution. This means that members of a fugitive’s family, which is defined under state law as a parent, spouse, child, grandparent, or grandchild, can avoid facing charges for protecting the fugitive from being apprehended by authorities. It is important to understand that there is no exemption from prosecution for family members under federal law.
Contact Musca Law Today. Your Life and Your Liberty Depend Upon It!
Facing the prospects of being convicted of harboring a fugitive in Florida can be frightening, as is can drastically affect your life for years to come. When you work a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney at Musca Law, he or she will help you to challenge your harboring a fugitive crime to the fullest extent of the law. Our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense, and boast 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. Our attorneys are skilled, experienced, tenacious, and relentless when it comes to defending our clients. To learn more about how Musca Law can make a difference for you, call (888) 484-5057 today.