Escaping Custody in New York
What is “Escaping Custody?”
Escaping custody refers to leaving, or trying to leave, circumstances in which you are lawfully in the custody of authorities. The common example that comes to mind is a prison escape, but many actions may constitute escaping custody.
For example, if you are arrested during a traffic stop and placed in custody in the rear of a police car, departing the car, or trying to, maybe considered escaping custody. Tampering with handcuffs may also qualify as escaping custody.
What Law Defines Escaping Custody in New York?
First Up: Escape in the First Degree
Under New York State law, Article 205 of the Penal Code defines escaping custody and related offenses.
- Section 205.15 defines escape in the first degree, a class D felony, as escaping from an incarceration facility after being legally charged with a felony or convicted of a felony.
Also, this section lays out that escape from legal detainment after being arrested, charged, or convicted of a class A or class B felony constitutes escape from custody.
Finally, when youthful offenders are involved, escape from a confinement facility after being legally adjudicated as a young offender as a substitute for a felony conviction, constitutes escape from custody.
Taking a closer look at Section 205.15 details the elements of each defined crime that must be proven in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Let’s consider the text of the law, its precise language, and what it means.
- Section 205.15 Escape in the first degree A person is guilty of escape in the first degree when:
- Having been charged with or convicted of a felony, he escapes from
a detention facility
- Having been arrested for, charged with or convicted of a class A or
class B felony, he escapes from custody
- Having been adjudicated a youthful offender, which finding was
substituted for the conviction of a felony, he escapes from a detention facility.
Escape in the first degree is a class D felony.
- Charged With or Convicted of Any Felony – Note that the terms “detention facility” and “custody” have specific meanings in the statute. A “detention facility” is defined as “any place used for the confinement, according to an order of a court, of a person that:
(a) charged with or convicted of an offense
(b) charged with being or adjudicated a youthful offender, person in need of supervision or juvenile delinquent
(c) held for extradition or as a material witness
(d) otherwise confined according to an order of a court.” “Custody” is defined as “restraint by a public servant according to an authorized arrest or an order of a court.”
The elements of the first definition include having been charged with or convicted of a felony, and escaping from a detention facility. This means that both of these elements must be proved; it is not sufficient to show that a defendant was charged with or convicted of a felony, or that an individual left a detention facility.
The element requiring a charge or conviction for a felony clarifies that a defendant charged with or convicted with only a misdemeanor does not meet the definition for escape in the first degree. In addition, the element requiring escape from a detention facility tells us that departure from a detention facility by an individual who has not been charged with or convicted or a felony is not enough on its own to qualify as an escape in the first degree.
A prison warden employed by the detention facility clocking out for the day is quite clearly not criminal escape from custody. The specification of escape from a detention facility is important well. Escape from a location that is not considered a detention facility may not constitute escape in the first degree.
- Arrested for, or Charged with, or Convicted for Class A or Class B Felony- The elements of the second definition include an arrest, charge or conviction for a Class A or Class B felony. This is very specific. Arrest for a Class C felony, or any other type of crime that is not categorized as a Class A or Class B felony, will not satisfy this definition.
The second element requires to escape from custody. An individual who has been arrested, charged with, or convicted of a Class A or Class B felony legally leaving a courtroom, for example, does not escape from custody.
- Youthful Offender Escape from Detention Facility- The elements of the third definition are specific to the youthful offender. This means that none of the elements of this definition can be met if the individual has not been classified as a youthful offender, and that classification was made as a substitute for a felony conviction.
A minor who has been arrested but not adjudicated as the youthful offender cannot meet the requirements of this definition. The second element requires to escape from a detention facility. A person who has been adjudicated as a youthful offender and is legally out on a form of bail is not guilty of escape from custody.
Next Up: Escape in the Second Degree
- Section 205.10 lays out three definitions for escape in the second degree, a class E felony. The first definition makes clear that a person can be found guilty of escape in the second degree if he escapes from a detention facility.
The second definition adds that an individual with an arrest, charge or conviction for a Class C, Class D or Class E felony who escapes from such a facility may be guilty of escape in the second degree.
Lastly, the third definition tells us that a person who has been classified as a youthful offender as a substitution for a felony conviction may be guilty of escape in the second degree if they escape from custody.
Let’s consider the specific language found in Section 205.10 to determine the elements of each of these defined crimes and explore what each element means.
- Section 205.10 Escape in the second degree. A person is guilty of escape in the second degree when:
- He escapes from a detention facility
- Having been arrested for, charged with or convicted of class C,
class D or class E felony, he escapes from custody
- Having been adjudicated a youthful offender, which finding was substituted for the conviction of a felony, he escapes from custody. Escape in the second degree is a class E felony.
- Escape From Detention Facility- In the first definition, note the use of the term “detention facility” and recall from above that this term has a specific meaning: “any place used for the confinement, according to an order of a court, of a person
(a) charged with or convicted of an offense, or
(b) charged with being or adjudicated a youthful offender, person in need of supervision or juvenile delinquent, or
(c) held for extradition or as a material witness, or
(d) otherwise confined according to an order of a court.”
There are several requirements written into this definition that must be met for a location to qualify as a detention facility. Confinement must be the result of a court order; it cannot be due to the whim of any individual.
The second and third definitions make use of the above-defined term “custody:” “restraint by a public servant according to an authorized arrest or an order of a court.” This requires that any restraint imposed on an individual must be carried out by someone holding a position of public trust and who has specific authorization from a court; any individual lacking this official permission cannot do it.
- Arrest for, or Charge or Conviction with a Class C, Class D or Class E Felony- This definition focuses on those who have escaped custody after having been arrested, charged with, or convicted of specific felony types: Class C, Class D or Class E felony.
If you have a felony charge or conviction and are unsure of which felony class it falls into, contact your attorney with this question. This definition, then, specifically does not apply to those arrested for, charged with, or convicted of other felony classes.
- Youthful Offender Escape from Custody- The primary difference between this youthful offender provision and the provision for escape in the first degree is that the provision for the first-degree offense specifically applies to escape from a detention facility while the second-degree offense specifically applies to escape from custody.
Last Up: Escape in the Third Degree
- Section 205.05 addresses the charge for escape in the third degree. This definition applies explicitly to escape from custody, rather than from a detention facility and does not require a specific type of charge of conviction. Note that this provision constitutes a class A misdemeanor, not a felony.
- Section 205.05 Escape in the third degree A person is guilty of escape in the third degree when he escapes from custody. Escape in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.
What are some related crimes?
Under certain circumstances, various charges similar or related to escape from custody may be brought in addition to the escape charge, or instead of it, depending on the situation. These may include more specific escape-related charges or those that fall into a category of escape, but do not fit within any of the escape-specific charges. Let’s consider a few examples.
- Section 205.30 defines resisting arrest as intentional “attempts to prevent a police officer or peace officer from effecting an authorized arrest of himself or another person.” Essentially, a resisting arrest occurs when an individual makes efforts to impede the ability of a police officer or peace officer from securing their arrest, or the arrest of someone else.
For example, running from a police officer during an arrest may constitute a resisting arrest. This is a Class A misdemeanor that could potentially compound escape from custody charges.
- Section 205.30 Resisting arrest. A person is guilty of resisting arrest when he intentionally prevents or attempts to avoid a police officer or peace officer from effecting an authorized arrest of himself or another person. Resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor.
Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree
Section 205.65 details hindering prosecution in the first degree as rendering “criminal assistance to a person who has committed a class A felony, knowing or believing that such person has engaged in conduct constituting a class A felony.” Hindering prosecution is helping someone known or believed to be guilty of a crime to avoid such prosecution.
- Section 205.65 Hindering prosecution in the first degree a person is guilty of hindering prosecution in the first degree when he renders criminal assistance to a person who has committed a class A felony, knowing or believing that such person has engaged in conduct constituting a class A felony. Hindering prosecution in the first degree is a class D felony.
As this provision involves the use of a precisely defined term, let’s take a look at the definition of “renders criminal assistance” provided in Section 205.50.
- Section 205.50 Hindering prosecution definition of the term. As used in sections 205.55, 205.60 and 205.65, a person “renders criminal assistance.”
When, with intent to prevent, hinder or delay the discovery or apprehension of, or the lodging of a criminal charge against, a person who he knows or believes has committed a crime or is being sought by law enforcement officials for the commission of a crime, or with intent to assist a person in profiting or benefiting from the commission of a crime, he:
- Harbors or conceals such person; or
- Warns such person of impending discovery or apprehension; or
- Provides such person with money, transportation, weapon, disguise or other means of avoiding detection or apprehension; or
- Prevents or obstructs, through force, intimidation or deception, anyone from performing an act which might aid in the discovery or apprehension of such person or the lodging of a criminal charge against him; or
- Suppresses, by any act of concealment, alteration or destruction, any physical evidence which might aid in the discovery or apprehension of such person or the lodging of a criminal charge against him; or
- Aids such person to protect or expeditiously profit from an advantage derived from such crime.
The conduct that goes along with this intent includes hiding the individual from law enforcement, letting the person know that they are likely to be found by law enforcement in short order, giving the person help in avoiding law enforcement.
Using force, lies or fear to inhibit law enforcement’s ability to find, charge or arrest the person, tampering with evidence that would otherwise assist law enforcement in finding, charging or arresting the person, or helping the person to secure benefits resulting from a crime.
- For example, hindering prosecution may include hiding a fugitive from the police, providing someone being sought in connection with a crime with money or a vehicle to get out of town, or shredding receipts that prove the person was in a particular place at a specific time, which could be used as evidence against them.
What are the statutory penalties if you are convicted of this crime?
As we’ve seen, these offenses encompass a range of various felony classes, each of which carries its potential sentence. New York’s felony classes and sentences spell out these sentences, which range from no time in prison to life sentences.
When considering sentencing ranges, keep in mind that certain factors may come into play, including prior convictions, persistent offender status, and youthful offender status. For example, a Class A violent felony is punishable by life or 20-35 years.
- A Class B violent felony carries a penalty of 5-25 years. A Class B non-violent felony carries a sentence of one to three years, with a maximum of 25 years. A Class C violent felony is punishable by three and a half years to 15 years. A Class C non-violent felony can come with no jail time, probation, anywhere from one to 15 years in prison.
- A Class D violent felony is punishable by two to seven years in prison. A Class D non-violent facility comes with a sentence ranging from no time in prison to seven years. Finally, Class E violent or non-violent felonies carry a sentence ranging from no time in prison to four years.
What are some of the additional consequences of being convicted?
Bear in mind that, regardless of the sentence given by a court, the conviction may cost additional consequences. Consider that professional consequences can include loss of licenses, reputational damage and financial costs to associated companies.
The conviction may also make finding a job or housing more complicated, and require a fight in court that may be costly, both personally and financially.
What are some defenses to Escaping Custody in New York?
There are ways to fight these charges in court. An affirmative defense is one that is specifically laid out by statute, and the burden is on the defendant to prove that the defense is available to them, by a preponderance of the evidence.
Defenses that are not affirmative defenses are offered, the prosecution has the burden to prove that the defendant does not have the defense available to them, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Potential defenses to escaping custody may include infancy, which essentially provides that a person under 18 years of age is generally not criminally responsible for their conduct. Another may be a necessity, such as when escaping custody is reasonably deemed necessary to avoid imminent injury due to an impending circumstance that develops independently of the escaping person’s actions.
Help is Available
Should you find yourself faced with any of these issues or questions, it’s important to consider calling a lawyer to assist you in any questioning, negotiations, and strategy. Eliminating, or minimizing any charges or sentencing is possible and well worth the call. Contact us to explain and discuss your case with an experienced professional who can help you take charge of your situation and help guide your way.