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In the landmark case of ‘State v. Eichelberger’, the Washington Court of Appeals tackled the intricate legal concepts of custody and escape, particularly in the context of first-degree escape charges. This article explores the 2008 case, ‘State v. Eichelberger’, providing an insightful analysis of how courts interpret laws and apply them to complex real-life scenarios.


The focal point of this case is Jessie J. Eichelberger, who faced a first-degree escape conviction after fleeing a courtroom upon receiving a verbal custody order. The case presents crucial questions about the nature of custody and Eichelberger’s awareness of his custody status during the escape.

Key Legal Issues Explained:

  1. What Constitutes Custody? Eichelberger argued against the notion that he was in custody when he fled, citing the absence of a written custody order. This raises the question: Can an oral order be enough for taking someone into custody?
  2. Understanding the Court’s Order: Eichelberger challenged the clarity of the oral custody order, suggesting ambiguity about his custodial status at the time of his escape.
  3. Awareness of Custody Status: A key aspect of this case is whether Eichelberger was aware of being in custody, a crucial factor for a first-degree escape charge.

In-Depth Analysis of the Court’s Decision:

  1. Validity of Oral Orders: The court established that an oral order is sufficient to impose custody. This interpretation prevents potentially absurd and disruptive courtroom scenarios.
  2. Clarity of the Order: The court determined that the judge’s statement, “I’m going to have him taken into custody,” was clear and immediate, effectively placing Eichelberger in custody at that moment.
  3. Evidence of Awareness: The court concluded that Eichelberger’s awareness of his custodial status was evident, given his reactions and immediate flight after the judge’s statement.


‘State v. Eichelberger’ is a pivotal case in understanding custody definitions and the conditions required for an escape conviction. It showcases the legal system’s detailed approach to interpreting laws and the significance of context in court orders. This case balances the need for procedural correctness with the practical realities of courtroom management, ensuring the justice system operates both effectively and efficiently.

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us