Just how hard is it to flee the country?

In this thread, there’s a discussion about the fact that Blago has a few weeks to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison.

I wanted to ask, in general, how hard is it for a convicted person to leave the United States to avoid going to prison? I can imagine scenarios where the felon (or his buddy) uses a private boat or plane to get to Mexico or Canada or some Caribbean island, thus avoiding any checks at the airlines. But then what? Would those countries go through heroics to forcibly send him back?
What about other countries and continents?
Is it possible for a felon to ecape to another country and somehow blend in with their society? Is this attempted very often?

I’ve wondered this, too. According to Fahrenheit 911, there are miles and miles of open and forested Oregon coast patrolled by a single state trooper. How hard would it be to get in and out of there undetected?

I think that the problem is more what do you do when you’ve left and how can you travel. Most countries have extradition treaties with the U.S. and you’ll need some form of ID to rent an apartment, open a bank account or just function in society.

Head to France. That’s worked for Roman Polanski for decades.

The other problem is, once you’ve fled, you’re not coming back.
As it is, Blagojevich got sentenced to 14 years. Sounds like he will serve 12 years min. So he’s 55, and will be out when he is 67ish. His daughers will be what, 20ish? Sure, he is gone for 12 years, but he will get to go home at the end of that. He won’t see his daughters’ prom dates, but he may well see them get married. He will get to have visits with them. If he runs, he better stay away, because in 12 years, he’ll still have a prison sentence hanging over his head.

It’s pretty easy to leave a country like the US or Canada legally - just approach the border and present your passport. Now, with everything linked up, the friendly Canadian border guard at Niagara Falls is going to swipe your passport and your name is going to pop up “Wanted”, and he’s:

  1. Probably not going to let you across the border.
  2. May turn you in or report you to US authorities.

I think the biggest problem would be money. If you aren’t wealthy and have access to a huge amount of cash how are you going to survive? If you can make it to some third world country with a big old bag full of money you stand a pretty good chance of living decently, but if you flee and only have a few thousand, then what? I would assume the locals aren’t going to provide for you.

Plus you also have to worry about extradition. Most of the 1st world countries have treaties with the US, so you aren’t goint to the nicest place in the world.

The coastline is patrolled by Great Whites, Orcas, and sea lions. Not to mention the occasional sneaker wave.


It is very likely that Blagojevich is not currently in possession of a valid U.S. passport. I would imagine that he had to turn it in when he was originally arrested; if not then, he certainly would have had to turn it in when he was convicted.

And, as far as we can tell, he doesn’t have a lot of money anymore.

Bear in mind that part of the reason why he was so eager to sell off the Senate seat was that he had extravagant spending habits, but did not necessarily make a lot of money as governor. And, he spent an awful lot of money on his defense team for his first trial (the one which ended largely in a hung jury); he wound up with a different defense team for his second trial, because he couldn’t afford to keep the same (expensive) lawyers from the first trial.

Only if you have French citizenship.

If you want to go to Mexico (from San Diego) you just walk through a turnstile that no one is watching. You don’t need to show any document at all–there’s no one there to show anything to.

If Blagovich could get to the San Ysidro crossing unnoticed by U.S. authorities, not only could he get into Mexico unnoticed, he conceivably could get by in Mexico without interference, if he had enough cash and led a low-profile life under a different name.

Those of us who have lived in Illinois over the past decade know that Blago is physically incapable of living a low-profile life. :slight_smile:

Realistically if you go into hiding in the United States it is very difficult for you to be found if you can actually stay “in hiding.” This is a massive country and there’s just too much of it to search.

The problem is in the particulars. To truly stay in hiding and essentially be “truly safe” from capture you would need to:

  1. Have a “safe house” somewhere, that was not in your name and not in the name of anyone directly connected to you.

  2. Need people to bring you supplies at your safe house, these people would need to be more or less unconnected to you.

  3. You would need all of the money to keep this happening in perpetuity without earning any money (as your earning options are virtually non-existent as a fugitive in hiding.)

That would make it so you would essentially be untraceable.

A less safe method would be for you to still work and go into town for your own supplies. You’d have to work a lot of under the table jobs, you’d also be able to get medical care through lying about your name and things of that nature, but it’d be more difficult. Forty years ago it would be trivially easy for a fugitive to move to a new town, get a legitimate job, rent a legitimate place and etc. You’d even be allowed to use your real name if you wanted, and because of the lack of everything being linked up you probably wouldn’t be found anytime soon, if ever. Further, you could just lie about your name and it wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, if you don’t have a legitimate social security number it is very, very difficult to get a legitimate job. Further, the number of “under the table jobs” that pay well aren’t as high as they used to be. Growing up I knew middle class guys who had earned a living under the table their entire lives, now a days, you are pushed more to the periphery and down lower into the poverty level working those jobs.

Basically it’s very doable to go into hiding successfully in the United States, but it is difficult to do it without giving up a hell of a lot. The big thing for a guy like Blago is you have to give up your family, they can’t go into hiding with you, and any contact you have with them is going to get you caught or get them in criminal trouble. Further, a guy like Blago who is a celebrity will have to change his appearance (might not be so hard, his hairstyle is almost iconic so if he just got a normal haircut many people wouldn’t recognize him on the street without his makeup and etc.) Further, a guy like Blago who lives large would have to get used to living in normal house and living like a guy making $15k a year not like a millionaire (which is how Blago lived despite not being wealthy himself.)

Finally, you could just choose to live in the woods and live off the land. That makes it incredibly difficult for you to be caught, but the truth of the matter is most people are not capable or are not willing to do that. Most people would take 12 years in jail versus living in the woods the rest of their life. That abortion bomber guy lived in the woods for many years successfully, but what finally got him caught is he came into town to dig through a dumpster for some supplies and digging in dumpsters is suspicious behavior and a police officer saw him doing it…went to investigate and found out who he was. Note that for many of his years in captivity he had lived in the woods eating acorns and lizards he could scavenge, supplemented by food he dug out of dumpsters. He kept his freedom for almost a decade that way, but I’m willing to be a decent portion of the population would have gone to prison over living like that.

Didn’t Scott Peterson try that? I seem to recall he got caught at the border (having dyed his hair blond and I don’t know what else.) And I think that was before the trial.

Not from the US, but I think I would try and crew a ship going to Brazil. I have no idea how hard that would be, I romantically imagine myself going in to lots of bars in the Rotterdam harbour area and speaking to shady people who might let me crew their ships.

In Brazil I would go to my village in the jungle, build my own house with help of my friends and get a job in the village. My savings would get me a long way there.

I think the biggest problem would be: how do I get my savings out of the bank? I would probably just be arrested for trying to get the money out, wouldn’t I? Hmm, my plan needs some work before I start my life of crime…

Actually a female would have much better chance of vanishing [though she had better be in good health, with no need for daily medication of any sort, especially birth control pills, many lesser developed countries have eithe r supply line issues, or very catholic governments that make getting birth control problematic.

A female can basically find a guy to move in with and in exchange for sec and cooking/cleaning live for years without being on any lease, or utility bill, and can be supported. I am actually not on any bill of any sort here, though legally married.

And a woman could find her way to the shores of Brazil, and find a guy to support her etc. Though if you had a fair amount of money stashed that you could access in cash before you ran, it would make the whole hiding as someones squeeze much easier [though I would not let any great amount of money in my possession be known about.]