You have probably seen it on the television or maybe in the episode of Cops, where someone tries to avoid being arrested. But eventually ends up hiding out at a friend’s or relative’s home to evade the police. Harboring a fugitive is a criminal offense where, inspite of knowing the person is a fugitive, others aid them in hiding, providing aid or assisting to avoid arrest. In this article, we will talk about the offense of harboring a fugitive.
Who Is A Fugitive?
Before you go into the details of understanding what harboring a fugitive really means, you must know who is a fugitive.
A fugitive is an individual who is fleeing from custody or hiding for the purpose of avoiding the police. This is mainly done for the purpose of avoiding being caught by law enforcement. Moreover, this includes escaping jail, government arrest, questioning, outraged private individuals, or vigilante violence.
However, a fugitive can also be someone who has intentionally fled a jurisdiction or state where they are charged with a crime. Moreover, they are also expected to be arrested or have been convicted of a crime. Similarly, awaiting sentencing or punishment.
You might be wondering if fugitives are always fugitives. No, they are not. Other names for fugitives include runaway, deserter, refugee, or an outlaw. Well, now you have understood the true meaning of a fugitive. Now, let’s go to the intricacies of harboring a fugitive.
What Is Meant By Harboring A Fugitive?
Harboring a fugitive is a criminal offense in the US. You have probably seen on TV or in crime dramas where an outlaw who is fleeing the police is providing shelter or aid to do so. Even though it seems exciting and adventurous on TV, in reality, it’s a criminal offense.
In layman’s words, harboring a fugitive means knowingly helping someone who has committed an offense and trying to avoid arrest by the police.
How Can The Prosecution Prove Harboring A Fugitive?
If you are wondering how the prosecution can prove that someone is harboring a fugitive, they have to showcase certain evidence. A few of them include:
- The prosecution will have to showcase that the person has committed an offense.
- Moreover, the prosecution also has to prove that the defendant knew that the person they are aiding had committed the crime.
- Similarly, the prosecution will also have to prove that the defendant, in spite of knowing all these, has helped the individual hide from the police.
Laws Varying Regarding Harboring A Fugitive?
The criminal offense of harboring a fugitive is a crime in all states across the United States. But, federal and state laws related to this crime vary. Some examples include:
- In the state of Pennsylvania, the crime of harboring a fugitive is punishable by upto seven years in prison and high fines.
- On the other hand, in Florida, harboring a fugitive is charged with a third-degree felony offense. Moreover, it is punishable by a $ 5,000 fine and/or five years in state prison.
Defenses Of Harboring A Fugitive In The US
If you have been caught with the charge of harboring a fugitive, you will be required to showcase your defenses. Moreover, when your case goes to trial, it will be necessary to your defenses to the judge and the prosecution. The most common defenses for this crime are mentioned below:
You Were Not Aware The Person Was A Fugitive
This is one defense you can portray during the trial to avoid fines and imprisonment. You will have to notify the legal parties that the person you were aiding or providing shelter is a friend/relative from another state who had visited you without any prior notice.
Moreover, as a good friend/relative, you could not deny their request to stay at your home. Similarly, you were also not aware that this person is facing criminal charges and has been on the lookout for the police.
Besides, if your criminal defense attorney can effectively prove that you had no prior knowledge of the offense or the fact that your friend/relative is a fugitive. Similarly, you cannot be charged with the offense of harboring a fugitive.
The Suspected Fugitive Does Not Know That They Are Facing Criminal Charge
This is the second defense you can say in a trial. Similarly, it is that the friend/relative that you allowed to stay over did not know they were facing charges. Moreover, this means while they were visiting you from another state, they had no idea that they were being charged.
Similarly, as your friend/relative had no idea regarding their charge, you also had no idea that you were harboring a fugitive. Moreover, another aspect is that the friend/relative cannot be termed a fugitive. Similarly, when they themselves are not aware of the charges they are facing. Your criminal defense lawyer has to prove this defense in trial to remove your charges of harboring a fugitive.
The offense of harboring a fugitive is a serious crime with consequences like long prison time. So, if you are charged with such an offense, Similarly, it is crucial that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Moreover, the lawyer will assist you in building an understandable defense for the trial to prevent you from being in prison time and paying a large fine. Similarly, you are also advised that the earlier you hire a criminal lawyer, the better. Having a team of legal experts will aid you in getting released. Similarly, from the criminal charge in an earlier time period.
Now, you have a fair idea regarding the criminal offense of harboring a fugitive. Moreover, this crime is known to have varied consequences based on the state you reside in the US. Similarly, you need not worry about the charges if you have the right criminal defense lawyer by your side.