We all remember the iconic television show “America’s Most Wanted” with John Walsh, which kept viewers on the edge of their seats from 1988 to 2012. But have you ever wondered why it lasted so long? It’s because America became captivated by the weekly features on criminal fugitives that the police and Federal agents were actively searching for. The show’s exposure helped law enforcement capture over 1400 fugitives and locate more than 50 missing children.
Today, John Walsh and his son continue to shed light on fugitives from justice through their show, “In Pursuit”. Additionally, “America’s Most Wanted” has made a comeback with a new host, proving that the stories of victims and fugitives still captivate the nation. The FBI even maintains a top ten fugitive list, which is constantly updated as criminals are apprehended. From terrorists to murderers, child molesters to bank robbers, these fugitives pose a threat to society, making their capture a top priority.
What Is a Fugitive From Justice Under Federal Law
According to federal law, a person becomes a fugitive from justice when they flee to another state or country with the intention to:
- Avoid prosecution or imprisonment for a felony or attempted felony charge
- Evade prosecution or imprisonment for arson or attempted arson
- Refuse to provide testimony in criminal trials for the above crimes or any others
- Escape from prison
A fugitive is someone who crosses state lines to escape prosecution, imprisonment, or legal proceedings. If apprehended, fugitives can be charged with federal fugitive from justice crimes in either the state they are caught in or the state they fled from. These charges are in addition to any existing charges or the charges they were trying to evade initially.
Understanding the Penalties
If convicted of being a fugitive from justice, the penalties can include:
- Up to 5 years in Federal Prison
- A monetary fine at the judge’s discretion
These penalties are imposed in addition to the penalties for the crimes that the fugitive was initially running from.
Harboring or knowingly concealing a fugitive is also a federal crime. The penalties for harboring a fugitive vary based on the severity of the crime the fugitive is charged with, for example:
- Fugitive flees prosecution for a felony: Harboring that person can lead to up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine.
- Fugitive flees prosecution for a non-felony: The person concealing the fugitive can receive up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine.
- Escaped Prisoner: If an escaped prisoner is found in your home, you can face up to 3 years in prison for harboring a known escaped prisoner.
Defenses for Fugitives From Justice
There are very few defenses that can be used for a fugitive from justice since fleeing to avoid prosecution is a conscious decision. However, if your defense team can prove that you were unaware of being a fugitive from justice, the charges may be dropped.
For example, if you are charged with a crime after leaving your home state but left before the charges were filed, you technically cannot be considered a fugitive from justice.
Another common defense is proving that you did not actually flee the state or cross state lines. As long as you remain within the state, federal fugitive charges do not apply.
Extradition in Nevada
Law enforcement agencies have an obligation to apprehend fugitives from justice, and they are always on the lookout for them. If you are arrested in Nevada, you will be extradited to your home state to:
- Face charges for fleeing to avoid a pending criminal case
- Address charges related to escaping jail or prison
- Face charges if you crossed state lines to avoid probation or bail
You can be charged in both states for being a fugitive. In most cases, fugitives are returned to their home state to face charges because they are already facing charges they fled from.
If you flee Nevada and are apprehended in another state, you will be extradited back to Nevada to face the charges. Nevada has 60 days from the time of your arrest to file paperwork for your extradition. The state follows the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, which is also adopted by most other states.
Many fugitives attempt to flee to countries like Canada or the Dominican Republic, as these countries either do not extradite to the United States or have rigorous extradition processes. It becomes even more challenging if the country or state does not have the death penalty for crimes that carry such a punishment. In some cases, resolving extradition to another country can take years.
What You Should Know if Arrested as a Fugitive in Nevada
If you are a suspected fugitive and have been arrested, it is essential to have legal representation since you already face other criminal charges that have been further complicated by your fugitive status.
You may want to contest extradition to your home state for various reasons. The Defenders can file a petition on your behalf to keep you in Nevada and prevent extradition. Our experienced attorneys have defended numerous clients, offering a diverse range of expertise.
If you believe you have been falsely arrested as a fugitive and were unaware of pending charges in another state, you can fight both the charges against you and the fugitive arrest itself. If the original charges were false or dropped, the fugitive charges should be dismissed as well.
If you or a loved one has been charged as a fugitive in Las Vegas, call The Defenders today to speak with our experienced legal team.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If the defendant is in Nevada and charged with a crime in their home state, what happens?
- A: The home state will provide Nevada with an affidavit, judgment, or indictment charging the defendant with a crime, and the governor will issue a Governor’s warrant to have the fugitive arrested.
Q: What options does the defendant have once arrested?
- A: The defendant can either waive extradition and willingly return to their home state to face charges or request an extradition hearing to contest being sent back.
Q: What happens during an extradition hearing?
- A: Extradition hearings resemble trials, with the focus solely on whether the fugitive is returned to their home state.
Q: What laws govern extradition in Nevada?
- A: Nevada, like most other states, has adopted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) to govern the extradition of fugitives.
Q: Can a suspect or defendant be charged with escape?
- A: Yes, both individuals charged or suspected of a crime and those already convicted can be charged with escape when attempting to break out of prisons, jails, holding facilities, community corrections facilities, or while in custody by law enforcement. The attempt itself is considered a crime, regardless of success.
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