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Harboring a Fugitive Defined

Harboring a fugitive in Oklahoma is against the law. But understanding what that means can be tricky with a broadly written statute such as this.

Oklahoma law states that it is against the law to knowingly and willfully conceal or harbor a person who is either charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor. To do so is a misdemeanor crime. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 439

Knowingly harboring a fugitive who is charged or convicted of a felony, or is a fugitive from arrest or justice on a felony matter, is a much more serious crime. The law states that to harbor, feed, lodge, clothe, arm, equip, aid, or conceal any such person is guilty of a felony in Oklahoma, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 440

Likewise, the law states that a person may not help a known sex offender whom they have reason to believe is in violation of the registration requirements of the Sex Offenders Registration Act, do any of the following:

  • withhold information or fail to notify law enforcement regarding the non-compliance or the location of the sex offender if they know it;
  • harbor or aid another in harboring, concealing, or trying to hide the sex offender; or
  • knowingly lie to law enforcement.

This is considered to be a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. It is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 440

From these statutes, we can see that a number of actions could be considered to be “harboring” under the law. Feeding, concealing, lying to law enforcement, helping a fugitive get rid of incriminating evidence, or giving a fugitive gas money. These are all ways to harbor a fugitive in violation of the law, as long as the action is done knowingly and willfully.

It can be difficult to say no to a loved one in trouble. A son or daughter gets into a scrape with the law and asks for your help, for some money to hop a bus, or for you to help get rid of some drugs they were going to sell to friends. Your first instinct might be to do as they ask, but it could also get you into trouble. Depending on the underlying crime they may be charged with, you could face up to 10 years in prison just for helping them.

The Knowledge Requirement

The statute requires that you knowingly harbor the fugitive. That means that you know the person has committed a crime and that he or she is a fugitive. Knowing all of this, you still provide assistance. The prosecutor must prove that you did so knowingly. Thus, lack of knowledge is a defense to the crime if charged.

If you are facing charges, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area and explore the possible defenses available to you. An experienced attorney will know how to help you construct a good defense.

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