When you’re being pursued by a police officer, your first instinct may be to run — or, if you’re driving a car, to speed away.
Whether you’re being pursued by a policeperson on foot or in a police car, the threat of arrest can be frightening enough to activate your fight-or-flight response. So when given a choice between the two, “flight” may sometimes feel like the smarter option for you — especially when a fight response could land you an assault charge.
However, fleeing from a police officer (more commonly known as “evading arrest”) is a crime in and of itself in Texas, and it carries serious consequences for those convicted.
To help you better understand this serious crime and its consequences, we’ve created a guide to the penalties and possible defenses of evading arrest.
The Penalties for Evading Arrest in Texas
Under § 38.04 of the Texas Penal Code, you commit the crime of evading arrest when you intentionally flee from a person you know is a police officer attempting to lawfully arrest you.
The criminal penalties are actually separated by whether you are evading arrest on foot or using a motor vehicle.
Evading Arrest on Foot
If you are fleeing a police officer on foot, it is a Class B misdemeanor. In Texas, a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000, or both.
Evading Arrest by Motor Vehicle
Charges get more serious, however, if you attempt to flee using a motor vehicle. Evading arrest in an automobile or water vessel is a state jail felony. In Texas, a state jail felony is punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Enhancements for Prior Convictions
Similarly, charges are elevated if this is not your first offense. A second conviction for evading arrest in an automobile or water vessel is a third-degree felony. In Texas, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Other Charge Enhancements
Charges can also become more serious if you cause harm to another person while attempting to flee a police officer. If someone else suffers serious bodily injury as a direct result of your attempt to run or drive away from a police officer, it is considered a third-degree felony.
Possible Defenses to a Texas Evading Arrest Charge
To help you avoid the serious penalties that come with an evading arrest conviction, your lawyer has several possible options for legal defenses. We’ve outlined the most common legal defenses for evading arrest below.
Lack of Intent
In order to be convicted of evading arrest, the prosecutor must show that you intentionally ran or drove away from the officer. Your lawyer may able to have your charges reduced or dropped if they can demonstrate you didn’t intend to flee the officer. Lack of intent is a common defense for many crimes.
If you were intoxicated and didn’t notice that a police officer was chasing you, your attorney can use this defense strategy to demonstrate you were too drunk or high to form the intent to evade. Of course, you will still face DWI charges when this defense is used.
Lack of knowledge
Your lawyer can argue that you did not see the police officer, or that you did not know that they were pursuing you.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.