ESCAPE

ESCAPE

This blog post will answer the following legal questions on the criminal offense of escape:

  • Legally, what is a “prisoner”?
  • Legally, what is “escape”?
  • Legally, what is a “penal institution” or “correctional institution”?
  • Legally, what is “jail”?
  • How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the crime of escape?
  • Can a defendant be convicted of escape under common law?
  • Under what additional circumstances is the escape statute applicable?

Legally, what is a “prisoner”?

 A “prisoner” is defined as a person who is placed in custody in a penal institution or correctional institution or a jail, in accordance with law.

Legally, what is “escape”?

“Escape” means absenting oneself from confinement without permission.

Legally, what is a “penal institution” or “correctional institution”?

A “penal institution” or a “correctional institution” is defined as any building, enclosure, space, or structure used for the custody, control, and rehabilitation of committed offenders and of such other persons as may be placed in custody therein in accordance with law.

Note that a police station cellblock is not a penal institution.

Note also that the statute prohibiting escape does not apply to persons who, in the absence of criminal charges, have been civilly committed.

Legally, what is “jail”?

A “jail” is a facility that is used for the detention of persons who are charged with a crime and committed by a court until they are tried.

Jails can also be used for the detention of persons arrested without a warrant and not admitted to bail pending appearance before the district court instead of a local lockup.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the crime of escape?

In order to prove a defendant guilty of the legal offense of escape, the Commonwealth must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (ALL):

  • That the defendant was a prisoner who had been committed by legal procedures to the custody of a penal institution or correctional institution, or a jail
  • That the defendant (EITHER):
  • Escaped from

    • That institution or jail
    • The grounds of that institution or jail
    • A courthouse
    • The grounds of a courthouse
    • The custody of an officer of that institution, jail, or courthouse

…while being conveyed to or from that institution or jail.

  • Failed to return from any temporary release from (ANY):
    • That institution or jail
    • The grounds of that institution or jail
    • A courthouse
    • The grounds of a courthouse
    • The custody of an officer of that institution, jail, or courthouse

…while being conveyed to or from that institution or jail.

  • That the defendant intentionally left custody without permission, in the sense that it was not done by accident or mistake

Note that necessity may be a defense to an escape charge.

Can a defendant be convicted of escape under common law?

YES, in Massachusetts an escape by a convicted criminal that is not encompassed by one of the various Commonwealth statutes on escape can still be punished as an offense under common law.

Under what additional circumstances is the escape statute applicable?

The Commonwealth statute forbidding escape is also applicable (ALL):

  • When the escape is from a jail or a correctional institution
  • When the escape is from a courthouse
  • When an escape is only an attempt to escape
  • When an escape is from a work release program
  • To a defendant who should have been paroled but had not been
  • Prisoners temporarily transferred to a hospital
  • When a guard supervises a prisoner who is not officially an “officer”
  • When a person fails to return to serve a weekend sentence
  • When a pretrial detainee escapes
  • When an escape is from a county jail or house of correction
  • When a deputy sheriff is transporting a sentenced prisoner from county jail to court

Note that the lawfulness of custody is an element of the escape offense, but the Commonwealth does not need to demonstrate that the original conviction was free of legal error in satisfying the element.

Remember that the Commonwealth can demonstrate lawful pretrial custody of a defendant obtained with an interstate detainer (i.e. a hold placed on a criminal defendant) by relying on presumption of regularity (i.e. assumption that transactions made in the normal course of business have been conducted in the usual manner).

Also note that wrongful intent is a necessary element of the criminal offense of escape, but is also inferable from unlawful departure in absence of a satisfactory explanation. 

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH ESCAPE, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO. 

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

Source: Instruction 7.220

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