Fled Us With An Open Criminal Case
Fleeing the United States with an open criminal case can have serious legal consequences. However, many people find themselves in this situation for a variety of reasons. This article will examine the implications of fleeing the U.S. with pending charges, the process for returning, and potential defenses.
Overview of the Issue
There are a few common scenarios that can lead someone to flee the country with open charges:
- They are arrested and released, perhaps on bail or their own recognizance, and leave the U.S. before their court date.
- They are aware they are under investigation for a crime but leave before they are officially charged.
- They are convicted of a crime but flee before sentencing.
Regardless of the specifics, once someone flees the U.S. with an open criminal case, they become a fugitive. This carries additional criminal penalties and makes resolving the original charges much more complicated.
Why People Flee
There are a variety of reasons someone may choose to flee the country when facing criminal charges, such as:
- Fear of going to jail or prison
- Wanting to avoid the stigma of a conviction
- Feeling the charges are unfair
- Not wanting immigration consequences if they are in the U.S. illegally
- Simple panic and poor decision making
While the motivations are understandable, fleeing virtually never makes the situation better. Consulting with an attorney and voluntarily returning to face charges is almost always the best option.
Consequences of Fleeing the U.S.
Once someone flees the U.S. with pending criminal charges, there are several potentially serious consequences:
Additional Criminal Charges
Prosecutors will likely file additional charges for fleeing prosecution and/or bail jumping. For example, under federal law, the crime of “Flight to Avoid Prosecution” carries up to 5 years in prison. State laws have similar provisions. These new charges result in additional prison time.
Loss of Bail
If out on bail, that money will be forfeited when the person flees. Bail bondsmen may also send bounty hunters to locate the person internationally.
Warrants and Extradition
Prosecutors will issue warrants for the person’s arrest, often with no bail allowed. If caught abroad, extradition processes will begin to return them to the U.S. to face charges.
Fleeing charges is a violation of immigration laws. It makes obtaining legal status much more difficult, even if the original charges are dismissed.
Having outstanding warrants and criminal charges will create major hurdles to finding legal employment both in the U.S. and abroad. This can lead to financial hardship.
Without resolving the charges, the case essentially remains open indefinitely. This can cause constant stress and uncertainty about if/when law enforcement will catch up to the person.
While fleeing charges should be avoided, there are some potential defenses if someone is arrested as a fugitive:
- No knowledge of charges – If they can prove they left the U.S. before becoming aware of pending charges, they may not have “knowingly” fled prosecution.
- No intent to avoid charges – If there is evidence they always intended to return and face the charges, it helps negate intent to be a fugitive.
- Unrelated reason for leaving U.S. – If there are compelling reasons for leaving the country unrelated to fleeing charges, it supports a defense.
- Seeking legal help abroad – If they can show they left to obtain legal help or evidence to support their defense, it may excuse fleeing.
- Coerced into leaving – If others coerced or misled them into leaving the country, it may provide a defense.
Fleeing the country with pending criminal charges should be avoided. It is better to face the charges voluntarily, with experienced legal counsel. If someone does flee, they should carefully consider the consequences and options for returning. Solid legal advice can help mitigate damages. While leaving seems an easy way to escape charges, it ultimately makes things much worse.