Running Away from Arrest Is Not Illegal: New Law Would Make It a Crime

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 06, 2021 | 0 Comments

It's not a good idea, but it's not a crime in Pennsylvania to run away from a police officer who is detaining or arresting you. That may change soon.

It is not your right to put the public and that police officer in danger by evading arrest,” asserted State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne). Thirty-six out of 50 senators agreed with him on October 26 and approved passage of SB 814.

Yudichak, noting strong bipartisan support, predicted the General Assembly would also pass the bill. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on October 27. As of November 18, no hearing date had been set.

Gov. Tom Wolf has not said whether he would sign the legislation if it comes to his desk.

Is There a Constitutional Right to Run?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposed the bill. In an October 19, 2021, position paper, Legislative Director Elizabeth Randol wrote that SB 814 criminalizes “the constitutional right to run from law enforcement.”

She cited U.S. v. Navedo, a 2012 decision from the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. An officer detaining a suspect upon reasonable suspicion does not have the right to arrest the suspect for running away, she argued, because running does not elevate reasonable suspicion to the probable cause an officer needs to make an arrest.

Consequences of Running

It is already against the law to resist arrest or to flee in a vehicle. Under SB 814, simply running away can be charged as a summary offense or elevated to a second-degree misdemeanor. If a police officer or bystander is injured or killed, fleeing on foot becomes chargeable up to a second-degree felony.

Additionally, if a police animal, such as a K-9 dog or horse, is injured, the offender may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Great bodily injury or death of the animal can raise the charge to a third-degree felony.

Walk, Don't Run

Sen. Yudichak said peaceful protestors may “walk away” without fear of arrest from an officer attempting to disperse a crowd. The text of the law, however, does not address this eventuality.

It is never a good idea to evade or resist imminent arrest, according to Joseph D. Lento, a veteran Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. “Running only makes it worse,” he said. Not only might you incur additional charges, fleeing to evade arrest can raise the suspicion of guilt in the minds of the judge or a jury. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, the Lento Law Firm is on your side. Call 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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