Evading Police in a Vehicle: The Charges, Penalties, and Defenses

Evading police in a vehicle (or even on foot) might seem like something only a crazy person would do. But none of us are quite sure how we’ll act when the police pull up behind us,  flashing lights and all. Maybe you remain calm and pull over, maybe you panic and keep driving. Maybe you don’t react at all because you don’t notice the cops are behind you.

If you made the mistake of evading police in a vehicle, what’s next? What are the penalties, and how can a Houston criminal defense lawyer help you defend yourself in court?

What is evading the police? And is evading the police a crime? 

Yes, evading police in a vehicle is definitely a crime. As is outlined in Title 10, Section 38.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person is evading the police if he “intentionally flees from a person he knows is a peace officer or federal special investigator attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him. The following must also be true for evading to have occurred.

  • The person evading police in a vehicle must actually know they’re evading arrest 
  • The police must make it known that they’re attempting to pull over the vehicle (via siren, verbal signal, etc.) 
  • It must be readily apparent that the police are, in fact, the police (wearing a uniform, in a marked car, etc.)

Curious about what additional bad driving habits that can get you in trouble with the police? Learn about hit and run charges in Texas, carrying a gun in your car in Texas, and then take a look at Texas DWI entrapment examples. 

What is the penalty for driving away from police? 

You can (and probably will) be arrested for driving away from the police, but exactly how long will you go to jail for evading the police? The answer depends on whether anyone got hurt while you were evading police in a vehicle, and whether or not you’ve been caught evading (either in a vehicle or on foot) before. 

  • For evading police in a vehicle you may be convicted of a 3rd-degree felony, which can land you with 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Charges can be bumped up to a 2nd-degree felony (2-20 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines) if someone dies as a direct result of your evading the police in a vehicle, or if someone receives serious injuries from the use of a tire deflation device

Depending on your criminal history and how the situation went down, you could end up looking at actual jail time if convicted.

How to beat a fleeing and eluding charge

If you’ve been charged with evading police in a vehicle, all is not lost. Just because you “evaded” an officer doesn’t mean you actually did it willingly or knowingly. Did you know you were being pursued by the police? Did the police flash their lights or turn on their sirens? Were the police in a marked vehicle or wearing a police uniform? 

When the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you and your Houston criminal defense attorney may be able to use that information in your defense. Here are a few situations that might help you avoid a fleeing and eluding charge:

  • It was not obvious that the police officer was a police officer
  • There were extenuating circumstances that made stopping unlikely or difficult
  • Someone or something in the vehicle forced you to continue driving — for example, a medical emergency.
  • You were under duress or threat of violence
  • There was no intent to flee the officer — for example, you were distracted in the car by children or a phone call and did not realize there was an officer behind you.
  • The prosecution is unable to prove that you were the driver of the vehicle. (Speaking of which, check out our article that answers the question: Is it illegal to be a drunk passenger?)

Focus on “evading” a felony conviction

If you’ve been charged with evading police in a vehicle, Thiessen Law Firm may be able to help. The law isn’t always against you (the Driver Responsibility Program is finally dead, after all), and partnering with a top-rated lawyer can be the first step towards beating charges for evading police in a vehicle. 

Here at Thiessen Law Firm, we work hard to fight and overcome evading charges, and we have the success stories and testimonials to prove it. If you want Thiessen Law Firm in your corner, request a free consultation or give us a call at 713-864-9000 today. 

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.