The crime of escape brings to mind some highly publicized stories such as the escape of 3 inmates from Alcatraz, a high security prison in San Francisco or the story of the 2 New York inmates who escapes with the help of a prison employee. But often times an escape may involve much less dramatic circumstances, such a prison inmate failing to return to custody after being granted temporary release or furlough. Either way, escape is a very serious charge and will most certainly lead to some additional time behind bars. If you or a loved one is charged with escape, it is important to be represented by a knowledgable criminal defense attorney.
Florida Statute 944.40 defines escape as any prisoner in a jail or other correctional institution escaping or attempting to escape from custody. The prosecutor has to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant was a a prisoner, jail inmate, an inmate of a private correction facility or road camp or any other correctional institution and
The defendant escaped from custody or attempted to escape from custody
According to the statute it does not matter whether or not the defendant was working on a road gang or if the defendant was being transported to or from a correctional facility. Per the statute it also does not matter whether or not the correctional institution was “operated by the state, a county, or a municipality, or operated under a contract with the state, a county, or a municipality.”
One example of escape charges could be from someone who was arrested for warrants for another criminal offense escaping from custody even before the police officer was able to handcuff the person. That is what the Florida Supreme Court decided in State v Ramsey in 1985 when they overturned the 5th District Court of Appeal.
Another example of escape charges includes a prisoner who escaped from custody after being transported to the hospital. That is a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Johnson v State.
Since 2019, the state can charge someone with escape if he or she does not return to jail or prison while on furlough.
Escape is a 2nd degree felony and is therefore punishable by up to 15 years in prison and / or probation and a $10,000 fine. Escape is assigned a level 6 according to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. This means that if you are charged with escape, you don’t automatically score prison time, however you would be close to scoring prison time and any kind of prior convictions or other accompanying charges could put you over the edge. Therefore, a judge does not have to but very well could be sentencing you to prison. The statute for escape also mandates that a defendant serve any prison or jail time for escape consecutive to the incarceration imposed on any other charge.
Even though the Florida courts have loosely interpreted the meaning of the escape statute by including situations when a defendant was transported to a place of confinement when the police officer hadn’t even placed the defendant in handcuffs, there are still defenses to the charge.
One defense is invalid arrest. This means that if the police officer did not have probable cause to arrest the defendant, the defendant cannot be charged with escape.
If charged with escape it is extremely important to be represented by an experienced and knowledgable criminal defense lawyer who knows the ins and outs for the charges. Only a skilled attorney will be able to explore all of the possible defenses for your situation and will thus be able to achieve the best possible outcome. Kerstin Wade has an office right in downtown Tampa, only a few miles from the courthouse. She has more than 10 years of experience representing clients in the Tampa Bay Area. She represents people in Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota County. If you or a loved one is charged with escape, do not hesitate to contact Kerstin Wade at 813-401-0130 for a free consultation.