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At what point is helping a fugitive illegal in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 03, 2019 | 0 Comments

Hiding or otherwise helping a fugitive avoid arrest is illegal in Nevada if the helper knows the person is a fugitive. A person who is genuinely ignorant that the person is fleeing police should not face charges for aiding or housing the person.

Example: Jim is being chased by police after committing a robbery in North Las Vegas. Jim makes it to a nearby storage facility, where he asks the desk clerk Sheila to rent a locker to store the wallet he just stole. The desk clerk Sheila has no idea that Jim is fleeing from the police or that the wallet is stolen. So if Sheila lets him rent a locker to store the wallet, Sheila should not be criminally liable because she did not knowingly help Jim avoid getting convicted by hiding the evidence.

If Sheila did know Jim was a fugitive, then helping him would be illegal in Nevada:

Example: Jim is being arrested for robbery in North Las Vegas when he breaks free of the police's grasp and runs away. He makes it to a nearby motel, where he tells the desk clerk Sheila, "That was close. A cop was trying to get me but I got away! Help me out and give me a room?" In this case, Sheila now knows that Jim is a fugitive. Therefore, she would be breaking the law by helping to conceal him by letting him rent a room and not telling the police.

Nevada law for concealing a fugitive (NRS 212.130)

It is against Nevada law for a person to knowingly conceal or harbor a person who has escaped from prison, jail, or police custody. The punishment depends on the fugitive's underlying crime:

Concealing a fugitive from felony charges is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:

Concealing a fugitive from gross misdemeanor charges is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Concealing a fugitive from misdemeanor charges is a misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Accessories in Nevada

Depending on the case, a person who helps a fugitive can instead be charged as an "accessory" to a crime: Under Nevada law, a person is an "accessory" to a crime if the person:

  • destroys or conceals material evidence of the crime, or
  • harbors or conceals the person committing the crime

In general, the Nevada crime of being an accessory to a fugitive is a category C felony, carrying:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • possibly up to $10,000 in fines

The penalties may be different if the accessory is a family member of the fugitive.

Federal law for concealing a fugitive (18 U.S.C. § 1071; 18 U.S.C. § 1072)

It is against federal law to knowingly harbor a fugitive who crossed state lines:

Example: Audrey escapes from prison in San Francisco and flees to Las Vegas, where she hides in her friend Greg's casita. Greg has no idea that Audrey is there. The U.S. Marshals Service tracks down Audrey and arrests both Audrey as well as Greg for concealing Audrey. But since Greg had no knowledge that Audrey was hiding in his casita, he committed no crime.

The federal penalty for harboring a fugitive depends on what class of crimes the fugitive is charged with:

  • If the fugitive is escaping arrest or incarceration for a felony, concealing the fugitive carries a fine and/or up to five (5) years in Federal Prison.
  • If the fugitive is escaping arrest or incarceration for a non-felony, concealing the fugitive carries a fine and/or up to one (1) year in prison.
  • If the fugitive has escaped from prison, concealing the fugitive carries up to three (3) years in prison.

Note that a person can still be liable for concealing a fugitive under federal law even if the fugitive threatens to hurt him/her for not helping. But depending on the situation, the U.S. Attorney's Office may elect to dismiss the charges or press for the laxest punishments.


Legal References

NRS 195.030  Accessories.

      1.  Every person who is not the spouse or domestic partner of the offender and who, after the commission of a felony, destroys or conceals, or aids in the destruction or concealment of, material evidence, or harbors or conceals such offender with intent that the offender may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that such offender has committed a felony or is liable to arrest, is an accessory to the felony.

      2.  Every person who is not the spouse, domestic partner, brother or sister, parent or grandparent, child or grandchild of the offender, who, after the commission of a gross misdemeanor, harbors, conceals or aids such offender with intent that the offender may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that such offender has committed a gross misdemeanor or is liable to arrest, is an accessory to the gross misdemeanor.

      3.  As used in this section, “domestic partner” means a person who is in a domestic partnership that is registered or recognized pursuant to chapter 122A of NRS, and that has not been terminated pursuant to that chapter.

NRS 195.040  Trial and punishment of accessories.

      1.  An accessory to a felony may be indicted, tried and convicted either in the county where he or she became an accessory, or where the principal felony was committed, whether the principal offender has or has not been convicted, or is or is not amenable to justice, or has been pardoned or otherwise discharged after conviction. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and except where a different punishment is specially provided by law, the accessory is guilty of a category C felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. An accessory to a felony who is the brother or sister, parent or grandparent, child or grandchild of the principal offender and who is an accessory to a felony pursuant to subsection 1 of NRS 195.030 is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

      2.  An accessory to a gross misdemeanor may be indicted, tried and convicted in the manner provided for an accessory to a felony and, except where a different punishment is specially provided by law, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than 6 months, or by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500, or by both fine and imprisonment.

NRS 212.130  Concealing escaped prisoner.  A person who knowingly conceals, or harbors for the purpose of concealment, a prisoner who has escaped or is escaping from custody shall be punished, according to the charge or conviction or sentence upon which the prisoner was held:

      1.  For a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130, if the prisoner was held for a felony.

      2.  For a gross misdemeanor, if the prisoner was held for a gross misdemeanor.

      3.  For a misdemeanor, if the prisoner was held for a misdemeanor.

18 U.S. Code § 1071 - Concealing person from arrest

Whoever harbors or conceals any person for whose arrest a warrant or process has been issued under the provisions of any law of the United States, so as to prevent his discovery and arrest, after notice or knowledge of the fact that a warrant or process has been issued for the apprehension of such person, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; except that if the warrant or process issued on a charge of felony, or after conviction of such person of any offense, the punishment shall be a fine under this title, or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 1072 - Concealing escaped prisoner

Whoever willfully harbors or conceals any prisoner after his escape from the custody of the Attorney General or from a Federal penal or correctional institution, shall be imprisoned not more than three years.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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