One Possibly Unforeseen Risk of Escaping While Handcuffed

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— is that you might also get charged with stealing the handcuffs.

HandcuffsAccording to the Longview (Wash.) Daily News, a man who was arrested on October 1 managed to escape while being taken to jail, after he was able to get the car door open even though his hands were cuffed behind his back. He fled, and as of October 9 he was still at large.

The escape added at least two charges to the felony charge the man was already facing.

First, the report says that after a search failed to locate the man, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest "on suspicion of first-degree escape." But I see a couple of problems with that.

Under Washington law, a person is guilty of first-degree escape only if "he or she knowingly escapes from custody or a detention facility while being detained pursuant to a conviction . . . ." Rev. Code Wash. § 9A.76.110. Setting aside my questions about how somebody might unknowingly escape from custody (sleepwalking?), that doesn't apply here because the escapee had not yet been convicted. At worst, this is second-degree escape. The other problem is with saying he's being sought "on suspicion of escape." Well, he is gone, right? Do you think he might still be in the car somewhere, maybe stuck down in the seat cushions?

Second, maybe because of the issues with this "escape" charge, according to the report police also want to charge the suspect with third-degree theft, on the grounds that when he ran off, he still had their handcuffs. (The cuffs were reportedly valued at only $29, which is what would make it a third-degree offense.) Very creative, but that's not going to work, either.

There are different kinds of theft, but they all require acting "with intent to deprive" the victim of property. And acting with "intent" means acting "with the objective or purpose to accomplish a result." So unless there is some reason to think that the guy got himself arrested as part of a cunning plan devised for the purpose of escaping with a pair of genuine $29 police handcuffs, I don't think this qualifies as a "theft." Probably he would have preferred to escape without the handcuffs, in fact. For all they know, the guy is planning to FedEx their handcuffs back to them at the earliest opportunity.

Verdict: probably guilty of second-degree escape, presumed innocent on the handcuff-theft charge.