Escape in PA (Maximums and Defenses)

Escape charges in Pennsylvania are incorrect charged by the DA and police every day across Pennsylvania. Read this page to understand why and how we can use our knowledge to help you.

When folks ask “Who is the best Escape charges attorney around me?” The answer is: “There is no better criminal defense lawyers in PA than The McShane Firm.”


Maximum Penalties:

If you plead guilty to this or are found guilty, it is either a felony of the third degree (F3) or a misdemeanor of the second degree (M2).

All M2s have a maximum penalty of jail not more than two years and a maximum fine of $5000.00.

But with a misdemeanor conviction there is just so much more to worry about. In truth, jail is temporary. The conviction and its consequences are permanent. You must consider Misdemeanor Conviction Consequences in Pennsylvania.

You need to be aware that there is currently debate around the grading of this offense. Can the government ever obtain an enhanced maximum and change in the grading to a Felony of the Third Degree based upon facts not proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt? The difference between a felony and misdemeanor is huge. 

Arguments against Escape as a felony charge

Here are the circumstances and facts that allow for the possibility of enhancing the maximum to a felony.

You are “under arrest for or detained on a charge of felony; convicted of a crime; or found to be delinquent of an offense which, if committed by an adult, would be classified as a felony and the actor is at least 18 years of age at the time of the violation of this section; the actor employs force, threat, deadly weapon or other dangerous instrumentality to effect the escape; or a public servant concerned in detention of persons convicted of crime intentionally facilitates or permits an escape from a detention facility.”

HOWEVER, it is vital that you pick an attorney who will raise and litigate the argument that this is unconstitutional. Because the Felony Conviction Consequences in Pennsylvania are much harsher and the sentencing also is much harsher.

All F3s have a maximum penalty of jail not more than seven years and a maximum fine of $15000.00.

Again, this is if the worst thing happens. We make sure the worst doesn’t happen. Let’s see how we can fight and beat the government, ok?


The Law:

You can read the exact statute here:

18 PS § 5121.  Escape.

What you need to know…

The government at all times has the burden of production and persuasion. What does that mean? It means that you can literally not say a word in trial and win your case. You start out not guilty because of the presumption of innocence. That means that just by being charged by the government doesn’t mean jack squat. Instead, the government must bring to trial admissible, credible and enough evidence to in fact prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s like climbing Mount Everest. Many say that they want to, but few reach the top. The same is true with the government’s accusations. They may want to prove you guilty. They might really really think you are. But often times with the right attorney they come up short just like 95% of the hikers who try to summit Mount Everest.

The elements of the crime

The law says that the government has to not only bring the evidence and enough evidence to prove you guilty but that they have to prove all parts of the law. If they prove one part with proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even to 100% certainty, they still have to prove all the other parts. Otherwise, you remain not guilty.

Here is a list of the elements of Escape-General:

  1. the accused
  2. unlawfully removed himself
    1. from official detention or
    2. fails to return to official detention following temporary leave granted for a specific purpose or limited period.

Here is a list of the elements of Escape-Permitting or facilitating escape

  1. the accused
  2. is a public servant concerned in detention
    1. who knowingly or recklessly permits an escape or
    2. knowingly caused or facilitated an escape

Legality of the detention or arrest is not a defense

We cannot say that you are not guilty of this crime because the arrest and detention was illegal. The law will not allow us to make that argument to the jury.

Running away from the police or probation is not always Escape

In order for the criminal charge of Escape in PA to happen, you must first be under “official detention.” If you are not under official detention, there can be no conviction for escape. So what is official detention? Per the law, 

The phrase “official detention” means arrest, detention in any facility for custody of persons under charge or conviction of crime or alleged or found to be delinquent, detention for extradition or deportation, or any other detention for law enforcement purposes; but the phrase does not include supervision of probation or parole, or constraint incidental to release on bail.