After a suspect or a defendant in a criminal investigation bails out of jail, they often leave the state or the country to avoid prosecution. This is especially true if the case is a murder case or an attempted murder case.
Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution was enacted in 1934 for the purpose of assisting law enforcement officials apprehend fugitives. The Federal Bureau of Investigation received responsibility for fugitives convicted or accused of extortion accompanied by threats of violence, assault with a dangerous weapon, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping or murder. In 1961, every felony offense that occurred in the 50 states was added to the crimes listed above and are now subject to this law.
Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution or Giving Testimony.
You may not leave your current location under the following circumstances:
Punishment for Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution.
If you are found guilty of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution, there is the possibility that you could face as much as five years in prison. On top of that, you may receive a fine. These penalties would be in addition to the penalties you received from the original offense. Your case for the original offense could also be in jeopardy because of your flight. Because you tried to escape prior to your court date, the judge would not be inclined to grant you bail because you have proven yourself to be a flight risk.
Avoiding Prosecution Isn’t Worth It.
There are several reasons that make avoiding prosecution a bad idea. For example, the crime for which you were being prosecuted or were convicted has a statute of limitations. You may be able to be gone long enough for the statute of limitations to pass, but you will not be free to return to the United States. The statute of limitations doesn’t expire when the person accused of the crime disappears. Therefore, you would be subject to prosecution no matter when you come back to the U.S.
You may be extradited back to the United States if you run to another country. With international extradition, the United States would be able to ask the country you are living in to send you back to the U.S. because you are avoiding prosecution or the need to give testimony. In order for the U.S. to request your extradition, it would need to have a treaty with the country. If you plan to go to a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty, it still isn’t worth it to run to that country to avoid prosecution because of all of the other penalties that you would face.
If you run to another state, the state in which the crime took place would need to file the documents so that you can be returned to your state. Your state would need to declare that you left the state with the intention of avoiding prosecution, and this would prove that you are a fugitive and would make you subject to the penalties listed above for Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution.
If you decide to run away before your court date, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest when you do not show up at the appointed time, and you will be in contempt of court. Once you leave the state, the judge will issue a fugitive from justice warrant.
After you become a fugitive from justice, bounty hunters can come after you. The laws give bounty hunters the ability to search for fugitives from justice after they fail to show up for their court dates or skip out on bail. Bounty hunters may even be more diligent in finding you than law enforcement officers because bounty hunters get a lot of money for their troubles.
Lastly, your reputation is in danger if you run from the law. The police departments regularly put mugshots up on their social media webpages and share them with other media sources, so your photograph could be plastered from one location of the country to the other. It just isn’t worth it.
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