You’ve seen the movies. The prisoner busts out of jail and makes a run for it complete with searchlights circling, dogs barking and sirens blaring. Obviously, that sort of escape is a criminal offense.

But what if you simply panicked and ran away from police during an arrest? Under Illinois law, you could be charged if you intentionally escape while in the lawful custody of a peace officer for an alleged offense. If your arrest is for a felony, you can be charged with a Class 2 Felony. If your arrest is for a misdemeanor, the charge can be Class A Escape. If armed with a dangerous weapon, your offense can be upgraded to a Class 1 Felony. (See 720 ILCS 5/31-6). If you are in a penal institution, escape can include failing to report back from a work furlough or day release. You can also be charged with escape for violating a condition of probation or supervision.

In determining whether you were in lawful custody, Illinois courts look at how much control the officer had over you and how much restriction was on your freedom of movement. Merely announcing you are under arrest might not be enough to establish lawful custody. In People v. Garza, however, the court held the defendant was in lawful custody where officers told defendant he was under arrest, stood within two feet of him and escorted him throughout the house after defendant was given permission to put on his clothing and say goodbye to his family, then escorted him down the stairs and through the door.

If you have been charged with escape or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Were you in lawful custody at the time? Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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