It wasn't the best way to start off November. At 2:30 in the morning, on the first of the month, Hopkins County Sheriff Deputies were sent to investigate a vehicle traveling on I-30. When they arrived on the scene, the vehicle accelerated away from them. According to local news reports, that set off an 11-mile chase across two counties. After they stopped the vehicle, using a “spike strip,” deputies brought the driver to a local jail, where he allegedly failed field sobriety tests, and then to a hospital for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. He was subsequently charged with “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) with an open container and felony evading arrest.
In terms of penalties, a First Offense of Evasion on Foot is a misdemeanor, but a First Offense of evading police in a vehicle is a felony, with a possible $10,000 fine and 2-20 years in prison.
In order to be convicted of evading arrest, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant recognized that the arresting police officers were, in fact, officers. Thus if a defendant ran away from an undercover officer, not knowing their law enforcement status, the defendant would not have been evading arrest.
On the flip side, the statute requires that a defendant intended to escape arrest at the time that they ran. While it may arguably true that a defendant who is intoxicated is not cognitively able to have formulated such a plan, the law does not recognize intoxication as a defense for the intent requirement.
There are other issues in the DWI/evasion combination that are frequently at issue in DWI litigation:
For instance, were the police officers' actions legal?
Evasion of an arrest only applies if the arrest would have been legal in the first place. If the arrest would not have been legal—perhaps because the police did not have reasonable suspicion for the stop, or probable cause for an arrest—then the defendant cannot be held as having evaded arrest.
Similarly, if the defendant wasn't doing anything that would constitute a crime that would have gotten them arrested, the defendant cannot be convicted for evading arrest. In the DWI context, therefore, if the defendant was not intoxicated—had a BAC below the legal threshold—then there would have been no grounds to arrest them. No grounds for arrest, no evasion of arrest.
As you can see, mastery of the law is essential in any DWI case, but it is even more important in a DWI with additional charges, such as evading arrest.
One of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report, with an AV Rating of “Preeminent,” Doug Murphy currently serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. Bringing 20 years of experience in the courtroom in DUI defense, Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense.