The Florida Bar - Board Certified Badge
Martindale-Hubbell - AV Preeminent Badge
Super Lawyers - Michael B Cohen Badge

Harboring a Suspect or Fugitive in a Federal Criminal Investigation

In a federal criminal investigation, harboring a suspect or a wanted fugitive refers to knowingly hiding a target of a federal investigation or a wanted criminal from federal authorities. In the case of a fugitive from justice, under federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 1071 (concealing an individual from arrest), four elements must be proved to prosecute an individual for the alleged commission of this crime of concealment.

The requirements to successfully initiate a prosecution against a defendant for this crime are as follows:

It must be proved that a federal warrant had been issued for the concealed individual's arrest. Secondly, that the person who allegedly gave the wanted person safe haven knew that such warrant was issued. It also must be proved that they actually concealed the fugitive from law enforcement and did so with the intent of preventing the fugitive's discovery and/or arrest.

It should also be understood that a "fugitive from justice" does not necessarily mean someone who escaped from prison or escaped while under arrest or when being questioned by federal authorities (18 U.S.C. § 1072, concealing an escaped prisoner), but can also be interpreted as a person under Federal Indictment or Information who did not show up for a hearing after a federal court had issued a bench warrant.

In a federal case there are no exemptions to this charge although in a case prosecuted by the state there are fourteen individual states that give exemptions to family members. Four additional states greatly reduce liability to family members in reference to penalties. Family members are defined as a spouse or sibling, parent, grandparent as well as children or grandchildren.

Florida is one of the states that allow this exemption. Exceptions to this are cases where the primary offender is alleged to have committed child abuse or the murder of a child under the age of 18 years. This charge may be waived if the court finds that the person claiming the indemnity is a victim of domestic violence.  

In a state prosecution it should be obvious that a friend or close associate would not be entitled to this exemption. If you or someone close to you has been accused of harboring the primary suspect or defendant in any type of criminal action my law firm based in Fort Lauderdale can help. Even if you fit the qualifications explained above for a familial exemption you should still have proper representation when a case goes to trial and during the process when criminal allegations for harboring are being charged.

Although the ineligibility of the familial exemption on a federal level has been challenged in the courts on numerous occasions, the courts have unanimously refused to recognize it as an exception.  

Another issue challenged in the courts is what is known as the "No Justification Defense". This stems from the belief that the individual that harbored the principal defendant felt that the government was not justified in going after the person they gave concealment to or the case against them was a product of government harassment.  This defense was also not recognized by the courts as a legitimate defense although challenged on many occasions.

However there are many defenses that can be employed if the government proceeds with a harboring case including a person being subtlety threatened or put under other forms of duress as well as a lack of knowledge that the principal defendant was in the process of fleeing from law enforcement.

The penalties for harboring can be extremely harsh and in certain cases steep fines may apply.

A conviction for concealing a person from arrest can be punishable by up to one year of incarceration. If the person given safe haven is an escaped prisoner the penalty can yield a maximum prison term of three years. Any individual that harbors a person with absolute knowledge that the person they are concealing has committed a federal crime or is about to commit such a crime can be imprisoned for a maximum of ten years, fined, or both. This also holds true if there is reasonable grounds for them to believe the aforementioned, if the government can prove their case.

If you find yourself facing the difficult dilemma of what to do if a family member or friend asks you to allow them to stay at your residence when you know they may have committed a federal crime, or asks you to lie if approached by federal authorities, the best course of action is to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney with vast experience in the federal system.

My Law Office has effectively defended client's Constitutional rights in Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade, and the Palm Beaches as well as many other areas throughout the State of Florida for federal charges brought forward by the government since the onset of the twenty-first century. My prior experience as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting cases for the government gives my clients a decisive edge when seeking the best plea deal or fighting charges in federal court. My expertise as a tough experienced litigator has always forced the government to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt when they proceed with criminal charges filed against my clients.

To view all of my qualifications and understand what should be done next if there are questions relating to your rights in cases regarding harboring a federal suspect or fugitive, or involving any other federal allegations filed against you by the government, click here.