Texas Stamp


PD-0963-19 12/18/2019

1.  “Whether the plain language of the evading-arrest statute requires proof of knowledge that the attempted arrest or detention is lawful.”

2.  “Whether it matters in this case; whether the evidence is legally insufficient to show that Nicholson knew he was being lawfully detained.”

Nicholson sat parked in a convenience store lot for several hours. Officer Layfield approached to verify that he was okay. Thereafter, the officer discovered Nicholson had an outstanding warrant, saw him litter, and began handcuffing him. Layfield did not convey to Nicholson why he was being detained. Nicholson pulled away from Layfield and drove off in his truck. He was convicted of evading arrest or detention, which prohibits “intentionally flee[ing] from a person [the defendant] knows is a peace officer. . . attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him.” Tex. Penal Code § 38.04.

On appeal, Nicholson argued the evidence was legally insufficient because the State failed to prove he knew that Layfield was lawfully detaining him. The majority opinion in the court of appeals sidestepped the issue and held that, even if it didn’t have to, the State proved Nicholson knew Layfield’s detention was lawful because he was being detained for at least four crimes—littering, failure to I.D., outstanding warrants, and paraphernalia possession. Chief Justice Gray dissented. He concluded the statute requires a defendant to know his detention was lawful and that there was insufficient evidence to prove he did.

Nicholson argues that the plain language of § 38.04 supports his interpretation. He notes several adverse courts of appeals’ holdings but argues they erroneously rely on Hazkell v. State, 616 S.W.2d 204 (Tex. Crim. App. 1981), which pre-dates the amendment adding “lawfully” to the statute. He observes that knowledge modifies the other terms surrounding “lawfully” and it is not set off by any punctuation, signaling that “knows” also modifies “lawfully.” He also challenges the majority’s sufficiency analysis. He notes that suspicion of paraphernalia possession did not arise until after his arrest and argues Nicholson would have no reason to infer he was being arrested or detained for the other offenses since the officer never articulated a basis for the detention.  



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