Once someone is taken into custody either after arrest or post-incarceration, that person can be charged with a new crime if they flee or escape. Florida criminalizes escape as a felony offense, and a conviction can result in years in prison in addition to the sentence for the underlying offense for which the person was arrested or convicted. Escape charges are serious and require the help of an experienced Saint Lucie criminal defense lawyer at the law firm of Kirschner & McEnery. Here is what to know about Saint Lucie escape after arrest or conviction.
What Is Escape in Florida?
Florida’s escape law is found at § 944.40, Fla. Stat. (2023). Under this statute, you can be charged with escape if you are arrested, transported to jail, confined in jail, prison, correctional facility, or road camp, and attempt to escape or escape from custody. Escape is penalized as a second-degree felony if you are convicted.
Legal Elements of Escape
To win a guilty verdict at trial, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were placed under arrest by a law enforcement officer or were convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison.
- You were being transported to jail or prison, were already confined, or were working at a road camp on work release.
- You tried to escape or did escape.
- You had the intent to avoid being lawfully confined.
The prosecutor must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense lawyers will carefully examine the evidence and try to show the prosecutor can’t prove one or more of the elements. If the prosecutor fails to meet their burden for one or more elements, you can’t be found guilty of escape.
Requirement of an Arrest
The crime of escape doesn’t occur unless there is a lawful arrest. A lawful arrest occurs when the police officer intended to place the person under arrest, actually seized the individual, and the officer communicated their intent to arrest to the defendant. The defendant must have understood that they were being arrested.
An arrest does not mean that the individual’s arrest was completed by the officer’s taking physical control over them. As long as the officer advised the defendant of the intent to arrest, and the defendant understood that communication, a constructive arrest occurs. Constructive arrests are considered enough to satisfy the element of an arrest.
What Happens if an Arrest is Incomplete?
An arrest must be completed before a person can be convicted of escape. If the defendant failed to submit to the arrest or if the officer never physically touched the defendant, they can’t be convicted for escaping. For example, if the individual fled before the officer could physically attempt to handcuff them but never touched the defendant, the defendant can’t be convicted of escape.
The arrest must also be lawful. If an arrest was unlawful, the defendant can’t be convicted of escape.
The person does not have to be actively being transported to be charged with escape. Florida courts have held that transportation begins once a person is arrested. If someone is placed under a lawful arrest and is sitting in a police car but manages to open the door and flee before the car begins moving, they can be charged with escape.
What Are the Penalties for Escape?
Escape is a second-degree felony in Florida. If you are convicted of this offense, you could face prison of up to 15 years, probation of up to 15 years, and a $10,000 fine. Since escape offenses are considered crimes against law enforcement officers, these offenses are aggressively prosecuted. People who are convicted of escape might expect the prosecutor to seek consecutive sentences to the offenses for which they have already been convicted or are facing at the time the escape occurred.
How Does a Saint Lucie Criminal Defense Lawyer Defend Against Escape?
The defenses your attorney might raise will depend on the facts of your cases. The following are a few of the potential defenses that might be available:
- You did not intend to escape.
- The officer didn’t appropriately communicate that you were being arrested.
- You didn’t know that the officer arresting you was a law enforcement officer.
- Your arrest was unlawful.
- The officer didn’t do enough to complete an arrest.
- What you did was only enough to support a charge of resisting arrest without violence, which is a misdemeanor.
- The officer used excessive force, which resulted in you escaping because of the degree of force used.
Talk to a Saint Lucie Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing charges for a Saint Lucie escape after arrest or incarceration, you should reach out to the experienced lawyers at the law firm of Kirschner & McEnery Law. Call us today to schedule a consultation at (772) 489-8501.