Resident Didn't Harbor a Fugitive
Facts: A resident’s daughter was arrested at the resident’s unit approximately 10 minutes after signing in on the site’s visitor log. The daughter was wanted by the police for allegedly stabbing a family member in the leg with a knife during an altercation.
The police had contacted the site’s security beforehand notifying security that they believed she would possibly show up at that site. They asked security not to approach her or try to apprehend her, but to contact them if they saw her. Police were contacted when she signed in. The police knocked on the door and asked her to step out. She stepped out and was arrested.
A few months later, the resident was notified by letter that the local PHA intended to evict her based on her violation of the lease. The lease obligated the resident “not to harbor and/or provide shelter to persons previously evicted for One Strike Violations, to persons fleeing arrests, prosecution and/or confinement for violation of applicable State and Federal laws.” The letter informed the resident that under the PHA’s One Strike policy, she was “not entitled to a grievance hearing to dispute management’s decision to terminate” the lease agreement “due to the criminal nature of the violation.”
The PHA sued to evict the resident. In response to questioning by the trial court judge, the resident stated she was unaware of an altercation between her daughter and brother (the apparent victim of a stabbing) until after her daughter was arrested at her unit. The resident’s lawyer pointed out that another family member had been arrested for the stabbing, leaving the resident with no reason to believe her daughter would be charged in the incident. In response, counsel for the PHA argued that “[c]riminal activity is cause for eviction even in the absence of conviction or arrest.” The trial court judge ruled in favor of the PHA, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: A Louisiana appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the trial judge’s conclusion that because the daughter was “wanted,” she was a fugitive and, therefore, her presence in her mother’s unit was a sufficient basis to evict her mother was clearly wrong.
The federal statute pertinent to harboring a fugitive, entitled “Concealing person from arrest,” provides: “Whosoever harbors or conceals any person for whose arrest a warrant or process has been issued under the provision of any law of the United States, so as to prevent his discovery and arrest, after notice or knowledge of the fact that a warrant or process has been issued for the apprehension of such person, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both . . . .” The court pointed out that the elements of harboring a fugitive in violation of this statute are: (1) the defendant knew about the warrant issued for the fugitive’s arrest; (2) the defendant engaged in physical acts that aided the fugitive in avoiding detection and apprehension; and (3) the defendant intended to prevent the fugitive’s discovery.
Here, the evidence showed that the daughter openly signed into the visitor’s log to visit her mother. Moreover, when the security guard (accompanied by the police) knocked on the door and asked for daughter, the daughter immediately came to the door and was arrested without incident and without interference by her mother.
Nothing in their actions indicated that the resident or her daughter knew of a warrant for the daughter’s arrest or that the resident took any action to shelter, protect, or aid her daughter in evading arrest. The court ruled that the mere presence of the daughter as a visitor in her mother’s unit after openly signing in on the visitor’s log doesn’t constitute “harboring a fugitive” on the part of the resident.
- Housing Authority of New Orleans v. Haynes, May 2015