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Fugitive From Justice

Anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant might be classified as a “fugitive from justice” under state or federal law. When people think of the term “fugitive from justice” they might imagine a person who fled from the State where the prosecution would take place.

A fugitive from justice might flee in order to:

  • avoid prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor;
  • evade the law; or
  • avoid punishment.

Depending on the circumstances, a broader definition of the phrase “fugitive from justice” might include any person who:

  • has been charged with a crime in one state in the regular course of judicial proceedings;
  • but is found to be present in another state;
  • regardless of whether the person left the state before or after being charged; and
  • regardless of the motive that induced the departure.

In those circumstances, the person might be able to obtain an extradition bond so that they can be released from custody and then travel to the place where the warrant was issued to surrender on the warrant.

The public sometimes uses the phrase “wanted person” when referring to a “fugitive from justice.”

A fugitive from justice is subject to domestic extradition if wanted by one state but living in another state. If the person is wanted by authorities in one country but living in another country, then the fugitive from justice is subject to an international extradition.

Attorney for a Fugitive from Justice in Florida

If you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.

We can help you determine whether the warrant exists, the underlying charges pending against you, possible defenses, and the best way to fight the case.

Our attorneys represent clients during the extradition process to or from Florida. Over the years, we have also represented clients in international extradition cases.

Depending on the circumstances, we can help you avoid the extradition process entirely by voluntarily returning to the home state as soon as you discover the existence of the warrant for your arrest.

Call 813-250-0500.


Federal Definitions of the “Fugitive from Justice” in the United States

The federal sentencing guidelines provide for a harsher sentence if the person is classified as a “prohibited person” under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(a)(4)(B). Under the sentencing guidelines, the definition of “prohibited person” under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) includes any person “who is a fugitive from justice.”

Under Federal law, Section 921 defines a fugitive from justice as “any person who has fled from any State to avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in any criminal proceeding.” A literal reading of the definition establishes that express intent to avoid prosecution or testimony is necessary to be a fugitive from justice for purposes of the sentencing enhancement. See United States v. Soza, 874 F.3d 884 (5th Cir. 2017).

For the purpose of determining who is a fugitive from justice, the words “treason, felony or other crime” embrace every act forbidden and made punishable by a law of a state, including both felonies and misdemeanors. See Kentucky v. Dennison, 65 U.S. (24 How.) 66, 103 (1861); Taylor v. Taintor, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 366, 375 (1873).


Possession of a Firearm While a Fugitive From Justice

Federal law provides for ten categories of persons who are not eligible to purchase or possess a firearm as found in Title 18, United States Code 922(g)(1)-(9), (n). Under 18 U.S.C. s. 922(g), a person is disqualified from purchasing a firearm or possessing a firearm or ammunition if the person is a “fugitive from justice.”

Federal law also prohibits you from possessing a firearm if you are under indictment or formally charged with any felony crimes while awaiting trial or final disposition.


Consequences of Being a Fugitive from Justice

Under Federal law, you lose many of your civil rights while you are a fugitive from justice, even if the crime is just a misdemeanor. If the warrant was issued in Florida and you leave the state of Florida, then you are considered a fugitive from justice.

While you are a fugitive from justice, you are not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm under Federal law. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 922[g](2) prohibits certain individuals from possessing firearms or ammunition, including anyone who is considered to be a fugitive from justice.

You might also lose access to certain government benefits.

The term “fugitive from justice” is defined as “[a]ny person who has fled from any State to avoid prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor; or any person who leaves the State to avoid giving testimony in any criminal proceeding.”

The term also includes any person who knows that misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against such person and who leaves the State of prosecution. Even if you left the state before you were aware of the criminal investigation, you might still be considered a fugitive from justice after you find out about the warrant but refuse to surrender.

The penalty for violating this federal law by possessing a firearm while you are a fugitive is up to ten years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.


Charges under 18 USC Chapter 49: Fugitives from Justice

Under federal law, Chapter 49 of 18 USC is devoted to charges related to fugitives from justice. Sections under 18 USC Ch.49 include:

  • Sec 1071. Concealing person from arrest
  • Sec 1072. Concealing escaped prisoner
  • Sec 1073. Flight to avoid prosecution or giving testimony
  • Sec 1074. Flight to avoid prosecution for damaging or destroying any building or other real or personal property.

The charge under §1071 for concealing a person from arrest prohibits concealing or harboring 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….”

The federal charge of concealing a fugitive under §1071 is punishable by imprisonment not more than one year and/or a fine 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 up to five years in prison and/or a fine. In addition to these federal charges related to fugitives, most states have similar laws in place.


Additional Resources

Definition of Fugitive from Justice – Visit the Merriam-Webster website to find the definition of “fugitive from justice.” The noun is defined as “a person (such as a criminal suspect or witness) who tries to elude law enforcement especially by fleeing the jurisdiction.”

Identify the Most Wanted Fugitives – Visit the website of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to find a list of the most wanted fugitives from justice or persons of interest wanted by the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals, and Violence Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP). 

Florida’s Concealed Weapon License while a Fugitive from Justice – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to find information about disqualifying conditions that might make you ineligible to obtain a “Concealed Weapon License” in Florida if you are a “fugitive from justice.” For purposes of obtaining a concealed weapons license, the term “fugitive from justice” means any person who has fled from any state to avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in any criminal proceeding.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.

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