Concealing or Harboring a Fugitive or Escapee from a Peace Officer

Someone might unwittingly assist another person in avoiding apprehension by law enforcement. If they are unaware, they are not guilty of harboring a fugitive.

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Defense Against Concealing or Harboring a Fugitive Allegations

Michigan and the federal government have laws against concealing or harboring a fugitive or assisting someone with escaping from a police officer. It should be obvious why the government would be concerned if someone knowingly helps a wanted person hide from the law. It should be expected that serious penalties await those who knowingly thwart the government’s ability to apprehend someone they want to arrest. Finding a fugitive is a time-consuming and expensive task, even if no one helps the fugitive evade the law. Prosecutors and judges take a harsh position with those accused of harboring a fugitive or helping an escapee.

Intent to Conceal or Harbor a Fugitive is Key

Both the Michigan and federal laws require the prosecution to prove the person who allegedly assisted a fugitive or escapee knew that the person they were assisting or harboring was a fugitive or escapee. The Michigan statute uses the phrase “knowingly or willfully.” Federal law requires that the accused person had “notice or knowledge of the fact that a warrant or process has been issued for the apprehension of such person.”

Knowledge might not be simple for the government to prove, especially in the face of a robust and aggressive defense. Unless there has been extensive, widespread media coverage, such as in sensational cases, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused person had actual knowledge that they were helping a fugitive or escapee. Even in cases of significant media coverage, it still is not a slam dunk because proving the accused was aware of the media coverage is complicated.

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How Can the Prosecution Prove Knowledge and Willfulness?

If the accused told other people that they were helping or harboring a fugitive, or if others were present, for instance, the accused’s residence and the fugitive’s status were discussed, there would be witnesses who could testify that the accused knew they were hiding the fugitive from the law. It is not beneath the police and prosecutor to threaten the accused’s friends and family with being charged with abetting the accused if they refuse to give evidence against the accused.

Cell phones and social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, can be valuable evidence of knowledge if the government can use that information to prove the accused knew of the fugitive’s status. Many criminal prosecutions have significantly benefitted from social media scrutiny, forensic analysis of cell phones and computers, and phone records.

Punishment for Concealing or Harboring a Fugitive – Michigan

The penalty for anyone knowingly concealing or harboring a fugitive who has escaped custody or helping them escape is 93 days in jail, two (2) years of probation, and $500.00. This penalty also applies if the fugitive has a criminal arrest warrant for their arrest for a misdemeanor, a bench warrant in a civil case in a Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, or a bench warrant for a misdemeanor case.

If the person knowingly conceals or harbors a fugitive who has a felony arrest warrant or bench warrant for a felony for them, the penalty rises to four (4) years in prison, up to five (5) years of probation, and a $5,000.00 fine. Unless mitigating and extenuating circumstances exist, a person assisting a fugitive can expect no mercy from the prosecutor and judge. It will take a very experienced and savvy criminal defense attorney to fend off the charges and, potentially, get the charges dismissed.

Federal Punishment

A person who knowingly prevents the discovery and arrest of a person for whom a federal misdemeanor arrest warrant has been issued faces prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office and one (1) year in jail. If the warrant and underlying case are for a felony charge, potential incarceration increases to five (5) years in a federal penitentiary, and the fine increases to $5,000.00. Federal prosecutions occur in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

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A Law Firm That Puts the Client First

At LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., our dedicated and tenacious criminal defense attorneys constantly strive to provide the best possible defense to any charge, including concealing or harboring a fugitive or assisting an escapee. We will do anything reasonably possible to have charges thrown out of court, get charges reduced, and help our clients avoid jail and prison. We go the extra mile when lesser attorneys and firms will not. While most law firms are concerned with only making money, we are concerned with making a difference. Give us a call for a free consultation. We will explain how we can help you.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

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