Unless you’re being charged with it yourself, the expression “hindering an apprehension” may be unfamiliar to you. This crime deals entirely with impeding the ability of law enforcement to capture a criminal. The charge is more common than many people think, and it is the reason Tonya Couch, mother of the so-called affluenza teen, ultimately found herself behind bars.
What Hindering Apprehension Really Means
Depending on the specifics of the case, hindering an apprehension can occur in one of two ways. The first has to do with destroying or suppressing evidence to cover up a crime. If you have any information that would assist law enforcement in apprehending an alleged criminal, you will commit a crime yourself if you try to conceal it by twisting or altering the facts in any way. Examples include efforts to:
- Provide false information.
- Influence a potential informant.
- Tamper with a witness.
- Hide or destroy incriminating evidence.
The second form of hindering apprehension comes into play when one person assists another in fleeing from the law. This is the one for which Mrs. Couch has come to grief. There are numerous ways in which this can occur. When dealing with someone who’s running away from arrest, it will be a crime to:
- Provide him with weapons.
- Facilitate his escape.
- Deliver him to an undisclosed location.
- Furnish a means of transportation.
- Assist him in devising a disguise.
- Warn him that the police are on their way.
All of these things and more can get you accused of hindering apprehension. In the case of Tonya Couch, several could apply. Her troubles began when her son Ethan, who was out on probation following his conviction for DUI vehicular manslaughter, appeared in a video playing a game of beer pong. Since the consumption of alcohol violated the terms of his conditional release, his mother decided to help him escape from what she was sure would be an imminent arrest. After throwing a going-away party, she transported her son out of the country to Mexico where they dyed their hair as a disguise and tried to act like tourists.
Punishments for Hindering an Apprehension
In the state of Nevada, the crime of hindering apprehension is considered an obstruction of public justice, an offense that varies in severity depending on two things:
- The circumstances under which it takes place.
- The gravity of the crime it attempts to cover up.
The actual charges can vary widely. In Nevada, for example, any attempt to impede law enforcement from discharging its official duties will usually count as a misdemeanor. This could rise to gross misdemeanor if it includes the concealment or outright destruction of any documents that would implicate a wanted individual or reveal his identity. The use of a firearm to commit this crime will raise the severity to category C, and anyone who helps a wanted person leave the state or country has committed a category D felony.
Although the laws may vary from one state to the next, the deliberate attempt to help a fugitive avoid apprehension will almost always stand as a crime for which the law could punish you in a variety of ways. For Tonya Couch, the charge consists of hindering apprehension of a felon. She now faces up to 10 years in prison for having committed a felony in the third degree.
Defenses Against Hindering an Apprehension
If you have been charged with hindering apprehension, you might escape conviction if you can prove that:
- You had no idea that the person was a fugitive.
- You didn’t think you were helping him avoid arrest.
- You only warned him of an imminent arrest in the hopes that he would turn himself in.
There are other possible defenses against this crime. If you are facing charges like these, the criminal defense attorneys at Weiner Law Group can help. We will inform you of your rights, apprise you of your chances and fight to provide the protections you require. Call 702-202-0500 today for a free consultation.