What is Harboring a Fugitive?

April 14, 2023 Criminal Defense

Harboring a fugitive is a criminal offense that involves knowingly hiding, assisting, or providing aid to a person who is a fugitive from the law. In most jurisdictions, harboring a fugitive is considered a serious offense, and if convicted, the individual who provided assistance to the fugitive can face significant criminal penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and probation.

This page will explain what a fugitive is, what it means to harbor a fugitive, and an example case of a wanted fugitive in Florida.

Defining a Fugitive

A fugitive is a person who is fleeing from the law or from justice, often to avoid prosecution or punishment for a crime they are accused of committing. Fugitives may be individuals who have been charged with a crime and are wanted by law enforcement agencies, or they may be individuals who have been convicted of a crime and have escaped from custody or failed to comply with the terms of their parole or probation.

Fugitives may be considered dangerous and may be subject to arrest and prosecution if they are apprehended by law enforcement authorities.

Harboring a fugitive can take many forms, including providing them with:

  • Shelter;
  • Transportation;
  • Money; or
  • Any other form of assistance that could help them avoid detection by law enforcement authorities.

Florida Charges for Harboring a Fugitive

Florida Statute Section 944.46 explains it is unlawful for any person to harbor, conceal, maintain, assist, or give any other aid to any prisoner after his or her escape from any state correctional institution, knowing that he or she is an escaped prisoner. The important element of this statute is the knowing part because the State will have the burden to prove that the person accused of harboring the fugitive was aware that they had escaped from prison. This means that simply aiding or assisting does not rise to the level of criminal activity required without that person’s knowledge that they are helping a fugitive.

Any person who commits the offense of harboring a fugitive in Florida can face a third-degree felony. The penalty for a third-degree felony includes up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

Federal Charges

In addition to State charges, a person who is caught harboring a fugitive may face federal charges as well. Under 18 U.S.C §1071, the prosecution is responsible for proving the following elements to convict a person of a federal harboring charge:

  • The person who was concealed or harbored was a fugitive with a federal arrest warrant against them;
  • The defendant had the knowledge of the fugitive’s warrant for their arrest;
  • The defendant took specific measures to hide or attempt to hide or harbor the fugitive; and
  • The defendant had the intention the assist in harboring the fugitive from the police.

The federal penalties for harboring a fugitive will vary depending on the surrounding case details. The defendant may face fines in addition to up to a year of imprisonment. However, if the fugitive is wanted for a felony offense or escaped after conviction of any criminal offense, then the defendant accused of harboring such a fugitive may face fines and up to five years in prison.

Example Case

Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) is in search of 19-year-old fugitive Brandon Mackenzie Frazier after he was accused of fatally shooting a man in Lake Worth. According to the report, PBSO responded to a call at 777 Liquors on March 21st, 2023 where they found an adult male dead from gunshot wounds.

For several weeks, the detectives with PBSO’s Violent Crimes Division investigated to determine who the suspect or motive was in the case. Three weeks after the shooting, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Frazier, on charges of first-degree murder with a firearm, and shooting within an occupied dwelling.

Frazier, a former football player with Palm Beach Central High School, had no previous criminal record. PBSO is currently seeking any information regarding Frazier’s whereabouts, as the office announced he is now a wanted fugitive. PBSO is offering a $3,000 reward. Anyone with information should contact Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-8477.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love is accused of harboring a fugitive, it is in your best interest to reach out to a skilled defense attorney in your area. An attorney can review the evidence against you, interview witnesses, and conduct their own investigation to identify any weak spots in the prosecution’s case. A Tallahassee criminal defense attorney can also help work towards negotiating a plea bargain or exploring other options with the State. With the guidance and support of an experienced defense attorney, you can increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome in your case. 

Don Pumphrey and the attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm are prepared to stand in your corner and fight for your future. Contact our attorneys at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today to receive a free consultation on your case.

Written by Karissa Key

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