What is Evading Arrest?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Evading arrest is a common legal term that refers to crimes where the perpetrator has intentionally avoided law officers legally attempting to make an arrest. By evading arrest, a suspect may hope to escape legal proceedings, but can find him or herself saddled with additional charges or more severe sentences as a result. Depending on local, state, or federal laws of the region, evasion may be charged as a minor or major crime.

When a criminal deliberately avoids law enforcement officers, it is referred to as evading arrest.
When a criminal deliberately avoids law enforcement officers, it is referred to as evading arrest.

There are several different methods of evading arrest that can all be considered criminal actions. One way is if the perpetrator runs away from an officer who is trying to arrest or detain him or her. Some states and regions make the criminal charge more serious if the suspect uses a vehicle in an attempt to escape an officer of the law. Another form of evasion involves a more extensive form of running away; suspects can lay false trails, convince others to lie for them, or hide in order to escape an arrest.

Car chases with police cars typically involve a criminal who is evading arrest.
Car chases with police cars typically involve a criminal who is evading arrest.

Depending on the local law, evading arrest may be charged as a separate crime or be used as a factor in determining punishment. In the state of Alabama, for instance, cases that may possibly qualify for the death penalty sometimes consider whether evasion was part of the arrest. In other states, being found guilty of evasion may result in a fine, jail sentence, or other punishment. It is important to note that anyone who helps a suspect evade arrest may also be charged with criminal offenses.

A perpetrator evading arrest may be saddled by additional charges or more severe sentences.
A perpetrator evading arrest may be saddled by additional charges or more severe sentences.

It is important to note that many evasion laws stipulate that the crime is only valid if the arrest or detainment is lawful. Often, lawyers can argue for the dismissal of an evasion charge if there is some question over whether the law officers were behaving legally. This stipulation works to protect defendants from situations in which the law officer was acting outside his or her capacity, or using the cloak of the job to engage in illegal harassment, discrimination, or other inappropriate behavior.

Evading arrest can lead to traffic accidents and may end in severe or even fatal confrontations.
Evading arrest can lead to traffic accidents and may end in severe or even fatal confrontations.

Evading lawful arrest is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences. When evading arrest results in a car chase or involves others, it puts the lives of innocent people in considerable risk. Evading arrest can lead to hostage situations, traffic accidents, and avoidable deaths, and may end in severe or even fatal confrontations. Moreover, according to legal scholars, evasion inhibits the natural process of the legal and justice system by refusing to acknowledge the granted authority of the law.

An arrest warrant may be unnecessary if a police officer believes he witnesses a suspect committing a crime.
An arrest warrant may be unnecessary if a police officer believes he witnesses a suspect committing a crime.
Some criminals will change their appearance to evade arrest.
Some criminals will change their appearance to evade arrest.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


I have a warrant out for my arrest based on financial difficulties. I am wanting to go abroad. How will I be affected if I book a flight?


@anon328386: You said, "Supposedly..." which implies you don't remember. I'm sure the police also did a breathalyzer or blood test on you after you crashed into the median and ran over the cones. I'm sorry, but that's not turning too soon. That's drunk driving. I have no doubt you didn't notice the officer behind you until he lit you up, but I don't think there's any doubt you were still over the legal limit when you were arrested.

If you tell the truth in court and cop to the DWI, maybe the judge will be willing to drop the evading charge. That is, if you have an otherwise clean record. I just don't think there's any point in saying you weren't still drunk. And even if you were sitting on the road, sound asleep in your car when the cop found you, you'd still be liable for DWI because you drove the car to that point, which means you were intoxicated when you did it.

Own it and call a taxi or have a designated driver the next time.


I pulled over and was sleeping on the shoulder of the tollway, after having a few drinks and not getting much sleep the night before.

Supposedly, during the time I woke up and realized I needed to drive home, a cop was approaching my car, which I wasn't aware of at the time. My windows were fogged up from sleeping for maybe 20 minutes to an hour, which is why I didn't see him.

Well, I turned on my engine and drove off without knowing he was behind me. I wasn't speeding away or anything, but stayed at the speed limit. He caught up with me and turned on his sirens and lights, which he didn't do in the in the beginning when he was approaching my car.

I was startled and not fully awake, so I exited to try to pull over and my first thought was to turn to the right. Well, I turned too soon and crashed into the median about two or three times and ran over some cones. I pulled over in a movie theater lot. They tackled me as I got out of the car and smacked me with a DWI and evading arrest. Is there any way I can get this dismissed?


I was arrested for evading arrest and forgery, but I didn't know the money was fake. I have court next week. I have my SAT and ACT exams next month. I'm already applying for colleges and I don't want to face time.

I went to the car to tell my friend that the cop was coming and they took off and we crashed down the street. When my friend took off, the cops were not there. Does that still count as evading arrest? I paid a lot for a lawyer but I still feel hopeless. Any help?


@stl156 - That is how I read it. I don't think there is any way they could just completely drop all the charges just because the police weren't exactly following the rules. That does raise a very interesting hypothetical situation, though.

Assume you were being arrested illegally and you ran away, got in your car, and left. When you left, though, you still kept following all the laws. Would that mean, then, that you couldn't be charged with any additional crimes outside of what you were originally being arrested for? I supposed they might be able to leverage something like not pulling over, but it is an interesting part of the law. I still can't see a jury overlooking it in any case, though.

I don't plan on ever being arrested, but I think if I were charged with evading arrest, getting a good lawyer capable of dealing with it would be very important.


@kentuckycat - I am pretty sure there is something like that, but I'm not sure what it is, since technically you weren't being "legally arrested" as the article says. I was wondering more about the line between evading arrest and resisting arrest. When does it change from one to the other? When you break away from the police? When you try to run? After your rights have been read? I have a feeling there are a lot of borderline cases where, if you have a good lawyer, evading arrest charges can get dropped or reduced to resisting arrest.

Just to clarify something else in the article for me a little bit. When it says that an evading arrest charge can only apply to a legal arrest, they still means the person is going to be charged for the initial crimes, right? They just can use the charge of evading arrest against them. That is how I interpreted it, at least.


@TreeMan - I know where I live there was someone I graduated with that was being arrested and broke away, got into his car, and sped off. It was a pretty big story considering I'm from a small town. They obviously caught him eventually, and I know under those circumstances it was considered a felony. I don't know exactly what the final punishment was, but I know if he wouldn't have run, it would have been a lot less.

That being said, though, what exactly constitutes the "arrest" portion? Do you have to physically be in the process of having the handcuffs put on, or does it also count as evading arrest if you know you will be arrested and try to flee? Isn't there some other type of related charge that includes just avoiding the police in general? For example, if a cop was behind you to pull over and you didn't stop.


@StarJo - I'm not sure any police cars have nitrous oxide capabilities outside of the movies, but they certainly are a lot more well equipped to handle chases than a normal car. Not to mention that police are trained in various driving techniques designed to stop people who are evading arrest with a vehicle.

I think the worst cases are the people who got pulled over, but knew they would be arrested for a relatively minor charge. Instead of just waiting to be arrested and face the punishment, they choose to try to speed away like that is going to solve the problem. Now they are not only facing an arrest for something like driving on a suspended license, they are now probably going to be charged with a felony.

Along that same line, does anyone here know what the various types of punishment are for evading arrest in terms of length and fines?


I knew of a guy who was so scared of going to prison that he tried to lead police to believe he had drowned in order to evade arrest. He lived in a cabin in the woods, and he knew they would be coming to arrest him, so he planned accordingly.

He left a trail of his clothes leading right up to the edge of the lake. He got in the lake and swam to the other side. When the cops showed up at his house, they found the trail and followed it to the water.

He left a suicide note on the shore. After the authorities dragged the lake and found nothing, they suspected that he was alive and elaborately evading arrest.

They ordered a search of the woods, and they found him hiding in a hollowed out tree. This added some time to his sentence, because he had faked his death, rather than just simply evading arrest.


Evading arrest with a vehicle is so stupid. Most cop cars can go extremely fast, because they are equipped with nitrous oxide boosters, allowing them to fly past regular vehicles.

When someone attempts to outrun a cop in a car, they are risking so many lives. It is very likely that the driver or an innocent bystander will die during the chase, because drivers going at high speeds usually lose control and crash into trees or other vehicles.

Every time I see a high speed chase on the news, I roll my eyes and hold my breath. These things never end well, and if the person is captured alive, they will be in so much trouble for evading arrest in this manner.


@orangey03 – Your friend's roommate made a wise decision. Though it may seem like a low thing to do, giving up your friend to the cops is best, because otherwise, you could go to prison, too.

My friend's family members are very loyal to each other, and they would do anything to protect each other. So, when one of them was accused of murder, they all schemed and lied to protect him. He ran away to another country, and each person who was questioned regarding his whereabouts made up a lie to lead police in the wrong direction.

Eventually, he was captured, and DNA evidence proved him guilty. Every person who lied for him got some jail time.

In a way, it is special that they were loyal enough to do this. However, I do wonder if they will think twice about doing it ever again for another family member, once they are released from prison.


I had a friend who got into some legal trouble, and the cops had an arrest warrant for him. He had a feeling that they would be coming for him, so when his roommate told him that a cop car had just pulled up outside, he escaped through the bathroom window.

Not willing to lie for him and share in his punishment for evading arrest, his roommate told them he had run when he saw the cop car. They tracked him through the window and into the woods, where he fell into a hole.

He is now in even more trouble, and running definitely made him look guilty. I'm sure that the jurors will hear about his attempt to evade arrest, and this will likely influence their decision.

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