Have you ever watched a police chase on TV? You watch the car swerve through traffic. It narrowly misses another vehicle as the perpetrator maneuvers through an intersection. Sometimes they manage to pull away from the police, but they are unaware local news helicopters are overhead broadcasting to all exactly where the getaway car is located. It is exciting. Seriously.
Most police chases do not get broadcast on TV. Many of them last only a few minutes before the runner either realizes they cannot get away or their car goes sliding into a ditch. An arrest will follow. One of the likely charges will be evading arrest.
My friend and client, Parker County Roadrunner, or as I call him “P.C.” has personally faced an evading arrest charge. The facts are something like this: He was driving his step-dad’s pick-up. P.C. had picked up a friend and they were driving on I-20 in Arlington, Texas when the red and blue lights of an Arlington Patrol Car appeared in the rearview mirror. The friend said, “Do not stop” and may have even threatened P.C. if he did stop. The chase last several miles, but with several officers having joined in pursuit, P.C. realized it would be better to stop regardless of what his friend threatened.
It turns out the friend had a good amount of marijuana in his gym bag. Both the friend and P.C. were charged with possession of marijuana. P.C. was also charged with evading arrest. A lucky break came for P.C. when the friend admitted the marijuana was his and that P.C. did not know what was in the gym bag. The possession of marijuana case against P.C. was dismissed. The evading arrest was still pending in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. Evading arrest in the motor vehicle is a state jail felony (up to 2 yrs in state jail) according the Texas Penal Code Section 38.04.
Step-dad bought his pick-up 10 years before he met his wife or P.C. All the debt was clear and it was an extra vehicle. When P.C. needed a vehicle to be able to get to work, Step-dad let P.C. borrow the truck. Step-dad was an innocent owner as to P.C.’s running from the law in the truck. Step-dad assumed as many people would that he would have to pay to get the vehicle out of the impound, and he could bring his pick-up home.
Step-dad received notice that the Tarrant County District Attorney was filing a suit for the civil forfeiture of his 15-year old pick-up. Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 59.01, an offense such as evading arrest in a motor vehicle, any instrument of the criminal offense can be seized by the State and forfeited by the owner. In other words, the pick-up truck was an instrument of the crime and therefore could be taken by the State.
Step-dad could either let Tarrant County have the truck, or Step-dad would have to file and answer as an innocent owner of the vehicle. Step-dad did not know P.C. was going to let a guy with marijuana in the truck. Step-dad did not know that P.C. was going to evade arrest on the streets of Arlington, Texas. Step-dad had a strong affirmative defense that he was an innocent owner as provided in Article 59.02 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
At the hearing for the truck the State cited case law which provided that if the person using the loaned vehicle was the “effective owner” because he more or less had sole use of the vehicle, it was effectively the driver’s vehicle. Because P.C. could take the pick-up to work and to his home, it was effectively his vehicle even if Step-dad held the title, the insurance, and the registration. The Court ruled in favor of Tarrant County; Step-dad's truck now belongs to the State of Texas.
P.C. Roadrunner tried to outrun the law. Step-dad lost his pick-up. Evading arrest can put you in jail and cost you a vehicle. If you are facing charges of evading arrest or need help filing an innocent owner claim, call Andrew Decker Law PLLC at 817-441-1629.
Find the introduction to this four-part series by clicking HERE.