September 11, 2023
If you’ve ever been pulled over for a traffic violation, it’s human nature to feel scared. Just the thought of being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser can spark fear and anxiety.
This is when your brain switches to fight-or-flight mode. Most people remain in their place until the situation is dealt with. Others panic and run or drive away.
Unfortunately, Texas law defines this as an illegal act of defiance and calls it ‘evading arrest.’
So, what does evading arrest charges in Texas entail? And what are the best possible defenses for this charge?
Let’s find out.
What Is Meant by Evading Arrest?
According to Texas law, evading arrest is the deliberate and intentional flight from a person known to be a law enforcement officer attempting to make a legal arrest.
Evasion can include anything from high-speed car chases to intentionally attempting to flee a police officer on foot. Not only does it come with severe consequences, but it can also add supplemental charges to your case.
Evading vs. Resisting Arrest
Evading and resisting arrest may sound similar to the untrained ear. Yet, to law enforcement agents, they’re two completely separate charges.
As you know by now, evading arrest means running or driving away from a police officer or federal investigator.
On the other hand, resisting arrest is when you physically and deliberately prevent an officer of the law from making an arrest. It can also be to obstruct police officers from searching or transporting you to the station.
In short, resisting arrest involves physical force, not simply running away from the officer.
Penalties for Evading Arrest
To be charged with evading arrest, there must first be a plausible reason you’ve committed a crime. Without it, there’s no reason for the police officer to arrest you in the first place. If there’s no arrest, it means there’s no attempt at escaping arrest.
Hypothetically, let’s say you were arrested and ran away from the arresting officer. Here’s the penalty you could face for evading arrest:
- Fleeing on foot: Class A misdemeanor that could result in a maximum of 180 days in jail. It could also result in a fine of up to $2,000.
- Fleeing in a motor vehicle or watercraft: state jail felony that could result in 180 days to two years in jail as well as up to a $10,000 fine.
- For any prior convictions for evading arrest in a motor vehicle or watercraft, the penalty can increase to a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000.
- If you cause any bodily injury or harm to any innocent bystanders during your attempt to evade arrest, it can result in a third-degree felony.
- If someone is killed as a result of evading arrest, it advances the crime to a second-degree felony.
Possible Defenses for Evading Arrest in Texas
If the state charges you with arrest evasion, it needs to demonstrate certain elements in order to seek a criminal conviction.
In other words, the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It must show that you knowingly tried to escape arrest by fleeing from whom you had every reason to believe were law enforcement officers.
Your attorney will prepare several solid defenses, including:
Lack of Intent
Intent refers to the conscious desire or objective to engage in a specific action, such as running away from the police. It can also refer to the cause or the result of the behavior.
Your legal defense attorney’s first defense plan will be to show lack of intent. If there’s no sufficient evidence to prove that you deliberately tried to flee the police, the state will have no choice but to drop the charges.
In other words, if there’s no intent on your part, there’s certainly no evasion.
Lack of Probable Cause
Another burden of proof on the state is to prove that your arrest was lawful. To do this, the prosecution must show you committed a crime that warranted your arrest, which resulted in the ensuing act of evading arrest.
Your criminal lawyer will show that the officer had no reason to pull you over and make an arrest in the first place because you weren’t doing anything illegal that would warrant an arrest.
So, there’s no way you’d be convicted of weaseling out of an arrest that didn’t happen in the first place. Once it becomes clear that there was no arrest, the criminal charge of evasion automatically gets dropped.
Lack of Police Identification
The second tactic a skilled defense attorney will resort to is that law enforcement officers failed to properly identify themselves. This could be because they were driving an unmarked car or not wearing an official uniform.
If the officer fails to identify themselves, the state can’t establish that you were attempting to resist being arrested or detained. You could just say you were running away from a random stranger and that you feared for your safety.
Hence, if there’s no reason to believe that the person chasing you was an officer of the law, you can’t be charged with evasion.
Intoxication is a tricky, but strong defense. If your attorney can prove that you were intoxicated to the level that made you unable to intentionally commit a crime or evade arrest, it could be a highly effective defense strategy.
However, you’ll still likely be charged with public intoxication or DUI, but you can’t be convicted of evading arrest.
Inability to Surrender to Arrest
As with all other 50 states, the law in Texas requires you to pull over to the side of the road and stop as long as you can ensure your safety and the safety of others.
An experienced lawyer can argue that at the time of the police stop, there was no secure place to pull over. This could be due to a number of reasons like heavy traffic, bad weather conditions, pedestrians, a neck injury, etc.
Evading an arrest charge in Texas means you willfully and intentionally fled from an officer. It also means you know that the person pursuing you is an officer or special investigator.
Without intent, you can’t be convicted of evading arrest.
While it seems pretty straightforward, the law can be complex and difficult to navigate. This is where a skilled criminal defense lawyer can argue against the prosecution to mitigate the charges and get them dropped.