What Does it Mean to Hinder Prosecution

What Does it Mean to Hinder Prosecution

When a person is charged with an offense, they have the right to be tried in court and defend themselves. Unfortunately, the legal system is complex and the outcome of the case is unknown. There is a potential for being found guilty of the alleged offense, which could lead to jail or prison time and fines. Afraid of facing severe consequences, the accused, or a friend or family member, might try to avoid being arrested or participating in legal proceedings. However, when someone helps another person elude going through the criminal justice process, they could be breaking one of Arizona’s hindering prosecution laws.

Hindering Prosecution in the Second Degree

Arizona has 2 hindering prosecution laws. The one considered the lesser offense is called hindering prosecution in the second degree. A person commits this crime when they offer help to a person accused of committing a misdemeanor.

The purpose of the person’s assistance must be to hinder:

  • Apprehension,
  • Prosecution,
  • Conviction, or
  • Punishment

If an individual impedes the prosecution of a person charged (or potentially charged) with a misdemeanor, they themselves are engaged in a misdemeanor offense. The hinderer isn’t charged with the same crime that the person they are helping is; instead, they are facing a separate class 1 misdemeanor charge.

In Arizona, the penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor include up to 6 months in jail.

Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree

Arizona’s other law that makes it a criminal offense to help a person avoid arrest or court, is called hindering prosecution in the first degree. It is distinct from the second-degree offense in that this one involves helping a person accused of a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. However, the intent for rendering assistance is the same as that for hindering prosecution in the second degree.

Generally, hindering prosecution in the first degree is charged as a class 5 felony. A conviction carries up to 2 years in prison.

However, the charge increases to a class 3 felony when:

  • The person who helps the other knows or should reasonably know that the offense they allegedly committed involved terrorism or murder; or
  • The person hindered prosecution to help a criminal street gang

The conviction penalties for a class 3 felony include up to 7 years in prison.

What Is Involved in Criminally Assisting Someone Else?

When a person hinders prosecution, they are taking some action to help an accused criminal avoid being tried in court for the alleged crime.

Arizona’s laws for this offense define rendering assistance as:

  • Harboring or hiding the accused;
  • Warning the accused that they may be arrested, prosecuted, or convicted (unless the warning is to get them to comply with the law);
  • Giving money, transportation, weapons, or disguises;
  • Using force, intimidation, or deception;
  • Concealing physical evidence; or
  • Concealing the other person’s identity

For instance, say Larry learned that his friend Betty was suspected of committing a violent crime such as misdemeanor assault. He helped her cut and dye her hair to disguise her identity and prevent her from being arrested. His actions constitute second-degree hindering prosecution.

However, let’s say Betty’s actions resulted in serious physical injury to the person she allegedly assaulted, which is a felony. If Larry does the same things he did in the earlier example, he could be charged with hindering prosecution in the first degree.