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.