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What Counts As Evading Arrest in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Counts As Evading Arrest in Texas

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The simple act of being pulled over for a traffic violation is full of tension. The possibility of being placed in handcuffs and a police cruiser can spark a much deeper fear. Some people panic when they see police chasing them. They run or drive away.

Unfortunately, that act is illegal in the state of Texas. It’s called evading arrest and can pile more penalties onto your case than the originating violation. Evasion can be anything from a long car chase to intentionally fleeing a police officer attempting to detain or arrest you lawfully.

What is evading arrest, and how does Texas define it?

Defining Evading Arrest

Evading arrest is the willful or intentional flight from a person known to be an officer of the law who is lawfully attempting to make an arrest. An officer of the law can be a police officer or a special federal investigator; it makes no difference. The intention of flight is all it takes to be charged with evading arrest. 

Intention is a conscious objective or desire to engage in specific conduct (such as running away from the police) or to cause the result of the behavior. However, you must reasonably know that the person chasing you is an officer of the law attempting to arrest or detain you.

Evading arrest is not the same as resisting arrest. Evasion is running or driving away from the police or investigator. Resisting is physically and intentionally preventing or obstructing someone you know is a police officer from arresting, transporting, or searching you. It means physical force, not just running.

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Penalties for Evading Arrest

First of all, you cannot be charged for evading arrest unless there is a reason for the officer to arrest you. There must be a reasonable belief that you have committed a crime. Without a reason to arrest you, there can be no evading arrest.

The penalty depends on how you evade arrest and the circumstances of that arrest that could enhance the punishment:

  • Fleeing on foot is a Class A misdemeanor that can result in up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Fleeing in a motor vehicle or watercraft is a state jail felony good for 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • If you have prior convictions for evading arrest in a motor vehicle or watercraft, the penalty rises to a third-degree felony worth up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

You may receive harsher penalties if anyone is harmed in your attempt to evade arrest. Causing serious bodily injury while attempting to flee from police or using a tire deflation device against the officer while evading arrest is a third-degree felony.

Killing someone as a result of the attempt to evade or seriously injuring someone when using a tire-deflating device during evasion elevates the crime to a second-degree felony. 

The Elements of a Conviction for Evading Arrest

If the state charges you with evading arrest, it must establish specific elements to convict you. The state has the burden of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

To convict, the prosecution must show that you intended to evade arrest. It must prove you intended to flee from someone you had reason to believe was an officer of the law.

You cannot be convicted if the officer didn’t properly identify themselves or you had no reason to believe the police were pursuing you.

The state must also prove your arrest was lawful. The prosecution must prove you committed a crime that warranted your arrest beyond a reasonable doubt. You must be arrested for some underlying offense to be charged with evasion. If you weren’t doing any illegal, you cannot be lawfully arrested or convicted of evading arrest.

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Potential Defenses

Your criminal defense attorney has several options for defending you against the charge of evading arrest. 

Your attorney can attempt to show a lack of intent. The state must prove you intended to flee the police, but lack of intent can kill the case if there is insufficient evidence to uphold that belief. 

For example, the police charge you with evading arrest when you drive off without noticing a police officer was pursuing you. There is no intent; therefore, there is no evasion.

If the arresting officer neglects to identify themselves properly, was not wearing a uniform, or was driving an unmarked car, you have no reason to believe a law officer was chasing you.

Intoxication can be a potential defense if your attorney can show your level of intoxication made you unable to form the intent to commit a crime. You may still be charged with DUI or public intoxication, but the police cannot enhance with evading arrest.

Perhaps you are unable to surrender to arrest. The law requires you to pull over and stop as long as you can do so safely. Your attorney can argue that there was no safe place to stop due to heavy or congested traffic, pedestrians, bad weather, inadequate shoulder, or other reason.

Lack of probable cause is a defense against evading arrest. If you can show the officer has no cause (no reason) to pull you over in the first place, you might escape evasion charges. Also, it’s possible to show it was all a misunderstanding. Evasion must be willful, but if you misunderstood the police officer’s actions, you can’t have intent. Any potential evasion isn’t willful.

Why You Need an Attorney

The goal of defending against evading arrest is to mitigate additional charges or even to end your case. 

Evading arrest requires intentional and willful actions on your part, as well as a reasonable belief that the person pursuing you is an officer of the law or a federal investigator. Without intent or willfulness, you cannot be convicted of evasion.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you argue against the prosecution and get evasion charges dropped, reducing your potential charges. A skilled lawyer like Greg Tsioros understands the defenses against evading arrest and can prepare a strategy to remove the charge from the case.

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