What To Know About “Evading Arrest” Charges In Texas
In the heat of the moment, people can make poor decisions and mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes include not pulling over promptly for a police vehicle, or panicking and fleeing on foot when an officer wants them to stop and talk. At other times, a person may not have even known an officer was trying to stop them. Either way, a person that allegedly fled a scene can later be charged with Evading Arrest or Detention under Texas Penal Code Sec. 38.04.
Under this Texas law, a person commits the crime of evading arrest or detention when they “intentionally flee” from a person they know is a peace officer or federal special investigator attempting lawfully to arrest or detain them. A person could also be charged under Section Section 545.421 of the Texas Transportation Code, which makes it an offense when someone “operates a motor vehicle and willfully fails or refuses to bring the vehicle to a stop or flees”. It is possible that a driver could be charged with either statutory violation or both, depending on the circumstances.
What are the Punishments for Evading Arrest in Texas?
If a person flees or evades a law enforcement officer, this is typically charged as a Class A Misdemeanor. A violation under the Transportation Code is generally a Class B Misdemeanor, unless the person was engaging in reckless and dangerous conduct at the time of the violation.
The Class A Misdemeanor brings a potential punishment of up to 1 year in county jail and up to $10,000 in fines, if it is the person’s first charge for evading arrest under Section 38.04. If the offense is committed in a motor vehicle or boat, under this section, the case could become a state jail felony. The penalties escalate further if the person has prior offenses for evading arrest or detention.
In addition to statutory jail time and fines, a person convicted of evading arrest could face consequences at their job and have the crime linger as part of their permanent criminal record.
Potential Defenses to Evading Arrest or Detention in Texas
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant intended to evade arrest or detention; and
- The defendant was actually committing an act that could have resulted in a “lawful” arrest or detention.
For example, if somebody was shoplifting from a store and intentionally evaded a police officer, this could meet the state’s burden of proof. If someone was merely walking through a store and was followed by a security officer (sometimes simply because of their appearance, or the color of their skin) it would not be a crime to leave the area.
Defending Against a Charge of Evading Arrest
There can be numerous available defenses to this charge, depending on the circumstances. Most commonly, the defense will be that the defendant was unaware they were being apprehended, or that the officer did not have a valid reason to stop or apprehend them.
Relevant facts could include:
- Whether the driver was able to see or hear an officer’s signal to stop;
- Whether a reasonable person would have reason to doubt that the pursuing vehicle was an official police vehicle;
- Whether a reasonable person would have reason to doubt that the pursuing officer was an actual law enforcement officer and not simply a stranger;
- Whether a driver had personal safety reasons not to stop sooner than they did, or whether someone on foot continued walking to a different area for safety reasons;
- Whether the defendant was compliant and cooperative when they did slow down or stop
- Whether there was probable cause to stop a person from any alleged violation of law when they were pursued.
When to Call a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
You might face a charge of evading arrest due to an innocent mistake, or simple failure to notice police lights behind you. Or you might face a charge because you made a poor split-second decision to run from an officer. Either way, this mistake doesn’t necessarily have to haunt you the rest of your life as part of your criminal record. At Keith B. French Law, our Pearland criminal lawyers will review all the facts and circumstances of your case to make the best defense possible. If you have been charged with evading arrest or detention in the Pearland, Texas area, reach out to us for help.