Can my mom go to jail for harboring a fugitive if she knew there was a warrant out for him?

UPDATED: Jun 7, 2021

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Can my mom go to jail for harboring a fugitive if she knew there was a warrant out for him?

My dad has been wanted for years on child support, and I never saw him for 14 years until now when he started living with us for 2 years. We knew he had a warrant out for his arrest. Many cops would stop by looking for him and harassing us like banging on the windows and doors non-stop for hours on end. Well, they finally arrested him, and now my mother is being charged with harboring him and lying to the cops and not cooperating. He’s now locked in federal jail, and he was supposed to be out last week. But they won’t let him, and now my mom has court. What do you think they will give her?

Asked on April 18, 2011 under Criminal Law, South Dakota


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Harboring a fugitive refers to the crime of knowingly hiding a wanted criminal from the authorities. Federal and state laws governing the crime of harboring a fugitive vary.  For a federal offense such a crime can carry up to 3 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.  However, every case is different.  All circumstances will be taken into consideration.  For example on the negative side, she hid your father (or assisted him in hiding) for 2 years, and during this time the authorities repeatedly made contact with her but she repeatedly lied to them as to his whereabouts.  On the plus side, if you are a minor child and/or have minor siblings that would also be taken into account; after all who would take care of you/them if she and your father were both imprisoned?  Additionally your father was not charged with a crime of violence, rather his offense had to do with non-payment of back child support, so that may help.  However, you indicate that there are other charges against her as well.  Bottom line, the fact is that your mother is in a lot of trouble and she needs to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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