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Texas Laws for Evading Arrest

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Arrest Evasion in Texas

You may have seen television shows or nightly news reports showing coverage of police chases. All of these chases start the same way: someone decides to resist an arrest attempt by law enforcement officers and flees from them. Whether this attempt to flee takes place on foot or in a vehicle, it is always a bad idea.

Running from the cops is not just a crime by itself, it can also enhance the original charges that caused the arrest attempt. There are different penalties for fleeing on foot or in a vehicle and the exact circumstances of each case can lead to different outcomes. Here is the information that you need to know about evading arrest in Texas.


Defining The Crime

Texas police officers have the power to arrest and detain people who are suspected of breaking the law. For this reason, people who are placed under arrest or detention are expected to comply with the requests and orders of the arresting officer. If they refuse to comply or if they attempt to flee the scene, they are breaking the law.

Section 38.04 of the Texas Penal Code makes it a crime to evade arrest or detention. According to the law, it is illegal to:

  • Intentionally flee from a person who is known to be a peace officer who is attempting to lawfully make an arrest or detention

It’s important to consider the exact wording of this law. First of all, it is only a crime to intentionally flee an arrest attempt. A person who accidentally or unintentionally flees an arrest is not necessarily breaking the law. Also, a person who is unaware that the person making the arrest is a peace officer may not be breaking the law by trying to flee. Finally, it is not a crime to flee from an illegal or unlawful arrest attempt.

Legal Examples

Martin is driving home one night when a police officer pulls him over for speeding. The officer approaches the vehicle and asks for Martin’s license and registration. He runs Martin’s information through his computer and finds out that Martin has a warrant for his arrest. He asks Martin to step out of the car but Martin turns on the car, hits the gas and flees. At that time, Martin has committed an illegal action by fleeing from a peace officer attempting to make a lawful arrest.

In another example, Janet is walking down the sidewalk when a police officer stops her to ask her a few questions. Janet matches the description of a person who recently committed a crime in the local area. The officer asks Janet to place her hands behind her back so that he can place her under detention and handcuff her while he radios for more information. Janet refuses and flees on foot.

Janet has committed a crime because she refused to comply with the officer’s request and ran away from him on foot. She can be arrested and charged with this offense.

Legal Penalties

Evading arrest is a misdemeanor crime but this penalty category can be enhanced if certain things occur. A person who is convicted of evading arrest on foot can face Class A misdemeanor penalties, including:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $4000

The crime can be upgraded to a state jail felony charge if the person flees in a vehicle or watercraft, rather than on foot, or if they have previously been convicted of this charge. That penalty includes:

  • Up to two years in a state jail facility
  • A fine of up to $10,000

If a person flees in a vehicle and has previously been convicted of evading arrest, their charge can be upgraded to a third degree felony. This charge can also be applied if someone suffers a serious bodily injury as the direct result of their evasion. This is punishable by:

  • Two to 10 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

If another person suffers death as the direct result of the evasion attempt or if someone is killed by the fleeing suspect’s use of a tire deflation device, their charge can be upgraded to a second degree felony. This is punishable by:

  • Two to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Legal Defenses

A person may be protected from prosecution and conviction if they flee an arrest or detention attempt in certain conditions. If these conditions are present, a legal defense attorney may help a defendant avoid a conviction.

For example, suppose that Jacob is walking out of his apartment when an undercover officer approaches and immediately tells Jacob to turn around and takes out a pair of handcuffs. Jacob is confused and runs back inside and locks the door and calls for help. Even if the person is actually an undercover officer, Jacob may not necessarily be guilty of evading arrest. This is because:

  • The officer was not wearing a uniform to signify his status as a peace officer
  • The officer did not identify himself as a peace officer so Jacob had no way of knowing
  • Jacob could not be expected to know that an average person who takes out handcuffs was an undercover officer and so did not intentionally flee an officer

In another example, a person who flees an officer attempting to make an illegal arrest may not be found guilty of evading arrest. For example, if an officer attempts to make an arrest without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, a person may be able to flee the scene without the threat of an evasion conviction.

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