Car chases involving the police are dramatic and dangerous. The Texas legislature takes any effort to run from the police very seriously. It is virtually never a good idea to try escaping the police, even if they are doing something you deem to be violating your rights. The best course is usually to be polite, cooperative, and employ your right to remain silent. It is better to fight unlawful police action in court than to risk more serious consequences by running. 

Evading the police is criminalized under §38.04 of the Texas Penal Code. A person commits an offense if they intentionally flee from a person known by them to be a peace officer attempting to lawfully arrest or detain them. 

Ordinarily, evading the police on foot is a Class “A” misdemeanor, unless the person charged has a prior criminal conviction for evading, in which case the repeat offender can be charged with a state jail felony offense. 

If the person uses a vehicle to evade the police, the charge jumps to a third degree felony. In rare cases involving death caused by the pursuit, or serious bodily injury caused by a suspect’s use of a tire deflation device, the charge rises to a second degree felony. 

It’s also worth noting that §545.421 of the Texas Transportation Code contains the Class “B” misdemeanor offense of Fleeing a Police Officer. This charge is also referred to as Eluding a Police Officer. A person commits an offense under this law if the person operates a motor vehicle and wilfully 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.

Whereas the crime of evading requires actual flight, the misdemeanor eluding charge is more broadly written. The police are trained to use lights, sirens, hand gestures, or anything else to alert a person that they need to pull over. The police expect you to pull over at the first possible safest opportunity. In this era of heightened awareness related to police misconduct, many citizens want to reach a well-lit or non-secluded area before pulling over. If the police believe you are ignoring their commands or attempting to escape their stop attempt, you could find yourself charged with an offense. 

Texas courts have noted that refusal to comply with an officer’s request to stop could be considered an attempt to evade detention. In other words, fleeing slowly is still fleeing. Some have argued that flight requires an element of speed, an element of intent to permanently be free of an officer’s control, or both, but Texas courts have disagreed. The law gives the police a wide range of discretion when charging the offense of evading. 

It is possible that a citizen never intentionally set out to avoid the police. It is entirely possible that they simply did not notice a trailing police vehicle. Loud music can drown out the sound of sirens, and a person may be lost in thought or inattentive while behind the wheel. 

Some people don’t pull over right away because they are worried about their vehicle being towed or impounded. This can lead to an Evading charge under Texas law. This is because although the evidence may indicate you had no intent to permanently escape an officer, it may nonetheless show that you were attempting to temporarily flee arrest or detention. 

If you’ve been charged with Evading Arrest or Detention under Texas law, it is critical to enlist the services of a defense attorney who will review law enforcement footage, and carefully scrutinize the government’s case.