When a police officer in Texas initiates a traffic stop, you are required to pull over at the nearest and safest location. Sometimes, however, the driver fails to notice the police car or sirens in due time. Maybe the music was too loud, the driver was lost in thought, or traffic, road or weather conditions prevented the driver from making an immediate stop. Whatever the reason, the police officer likely won't care and may charge you with evading arrest or detention in a motor vehicle. The penalties for this offense are steep, including state jail time.
If you inadvertently evaded police, you need a criminal defense attorney experienced in these matters. You should not let the wheels of fate turn on their own, because they may turn in a direction you neither deserver nor want. Doug Murphy, a reputable criminal defense lawyer in Houston, Texas, has the resources and the insight, the latter which was gained from more than two decades of experience, to help you with your case and successfully navigate the legal system. Experience matters. Contact Doug Murphy today to discuss your case.
Evading Arrest or Detention in Texas: the Law
Texas Penal Code § 38.034 states that a person commits the offense of evading arrest or detention if the person “intentionally flees from a person he [or she] knows is a peace officer attempting to lawfully arrest or detain him" or her.
If you commit this crime while on foot, then it is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000. If, however, you either (1) have a prior conviction under this law; or (2) commit this crime while in a vehicle or water vessel, the offense is a state jail felony. If you had a prior conviction, then it is a third degree felony, but if it's your first conviction of evading police while in a motor vehicle, it is a fourth degree felony. A third degree felony could result in a two to 10 years in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines. A fourth degree felony could result in 180 days to two years in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Separate from the Penal Code, the Texas Transportation Code also identifies and defines the offense of evading arrest and detention. Section 545.421 states the crime has been committed “[i]f the person operates a motor vehicle and willfully fails or refuses to bring the vehicle to a stop or flees, or attempts to elude, a pursuing police vehicle when given a visual or audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop." The offense per the Texas Transportation Code is a misdemeanor.
A person could be charged under either or both of these statutes.
Are there any Related Offenses?
There are a couple of criminal offenses that are related to the offense of evading arrest. In fact, the following offenses often accompany a charge of evading arrest or detention: (1) resisting arrest; and (2) hindering apprehension or prosecution.
A person who flees from the police and uses force to resist an arrest, detention or search can be charged with both evading and resisting arrest. A person who flees the police and hides evidence or another suspect can be charged with evading and hindering arrest or prosecution.
What must the State Prove To Convict a Person for Evading Arrest?
Being charged with the crime of evading police is one thing; it is quite another thing to be convicted of it. Conviction follows only if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offense. To prove beyond a reasonable doubt in this case, there must be proof that (1) you intended to evade arrest or detention; and (2) you were actually committing something that could have resulted in arrest or detention.
Intent to Evade. There must have been intent on your part to evade the police for arrest or detention, and that intent to evade must be proven. That you made a mistake or simply didn't notice the police initially is not enough to convict you of this crime.
Your Arrest was Lawful. The State must prove that your arrest or detention was lawful. If you end up being arrested and your only charge is Evading Arrest or Detention, then that should make the jurors wonder if you were even trying to evade the police in the first place. Generally speaking, a person guilty of a crime is the kind of person who will intentionally try to evade arrest or detention, not someone who committed no crime but for the failure to notice the police sirens.
Evading Arrest or Detention in Texas: Defending the Charge
If you have been charged with evading arrest or detention in Texas, you need a good defense because the potential punishment for a conviction are dire. Doug Murphy, reputable criminal defense attorney, will build your defense on facts, legal argument and strategy.
Building a Defense
As with most cases, any defense to a crime depends on the facts, and the same are very true in this instance. Your attorney will want to know the facts, such as:
- Was there probable cause or reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime before the traffic stop was initiated?
- Did the police use lights, siren, hand gestures, or anything else to alert you that you needed to pull over for a traffic stop?
- How much distance was covered and/or how much time lapsed from the moment you saw the police to the moment you pulled over?
- What is your reason for this lapse?
- What was your speed prior to pursuit and at the time of the pursuit?
- Did the condition of your vehicle cause any delay for you to stop?
- Were there any other conditions (health, traffic, weather) that precluded you from stopping promptly?
- When you were finally stopped, what reason did the police give for the traffic stop?
- Is there any audio or video of the traffic stop and/or pursuit?
Knowing the answers to these and other questions will help your attorney best develop your defense. The attorney will also want to know if your Miranda Rights were read to you, and if so, at what point. The attorney will be looking for any signs that your constitutional rights and protections were violated.
Arguing Your Defense
Depending on the facts, your defenses could include but are not limited to the following:
- The police officer did not identify him or herself properly. If the officer was in plain clothes who was in an unmarked police car and didn't properly identify him or herself as a law enforcement agent, then you didn't know you were dealing with a police officer and, thus, not intending to evade arrest or detention.
- The attempt at an arrest was not made lawfully. If the attempt to arrest or detain you was not lawful, then the act of evading arrest is not credible. There should be a supplemental charge accompanying a charge of evading arrest or detention to denote the original intent behind the officer's attempt to arrest you in the first place.
- The evasion was not a wilful act but a misunderstanding. If you failed to realize there were sirens or that the police were in pursuit of you, and your failure was the result of a misunderstanding, inattention or other interference, then an essential element of the crime is in want, and the charge cannot proceed.
At Doug Murphy Law, we understand that mistakes happen. If you have been charged with a crime that carries serious penalties, and it's all because of a simple mistake, we are here to help you. We know the law can be unforgiving, but we aren't. We are ready to hear your case and defend you accordingly.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Yes. But you do not just need a criminal defense lawyer, you need a Board-certified criminal defense lawyer. As such, you can expect thorough, aggressive legal representation by someone who has the experience and insight proven by successfully argued cases in court and successfully dismissed cases outside of court. Doug Murphy is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in criminal defense. This means he has met several rigorous requirements by the Texas Board to be deemed as specially certified in criminal defense law. Just over 5% of all lawyers in Texas are certified in one of 20 legal specializations, and Doug Murphy is one.
Comprehensive Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston, Texas
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we devote our resources and capabilities to defend our clients' rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who not only fights on behalf of his clients but constantly gives back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same. He is committed to defending your charge of evading arrest and detention and any charge that may accompany it. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss the circumstances of your case.