There are a lot of spoilers in this one, so we’ll cover the setup inside. But the issue we’re looking at here is the nature of the criminal offense of escape and its potential sentence under New York Penal Law
The deal here is that Castle has been framed for murder by an old nemesis, 3XK, from season 3. Beckett and the guys don’t believe it, but the evidence is incredibly incriminating and Castle himself has no explanation.
Of course, it’s a frame, and that comes out in the end. But before that happens, Castle is arrested and charged with murder. Actually charged: the DA makes an appearance and it is specifically mentioned that charges have been filed. Castle is to be transported to central booking for processing.
But the officers that come to take him over aren’t actually cops. They’re stand-ins hired to bust him out of the joint. When everything winds down, Gates says that while the murder charge is being dropped, “There’s still the matter of your escape from custody. However, under the circumstances I’m sure you can negotiate down to time served.”
Escape is an offense under Article 205 of the New York Penal Law. Here we’re specifically interested in section 205.15(2), which makes it a class D felony to escape after one has been “arrested for, charged with or convicted of a class A or class B felony”. The intentional murder of the victim was either second or first degree murder, depending on whether she was tortured prior to her death; either is a class A felony. So Castle’s escape would qualify as a class D felony.
If we look at Article 70, we see that class D felonies carry up to seven years hard time. Castle might well be able to negotiate down to time served given the fact that the DA’s office was about to try him on an epic frame job, but he might not either. Escaping from custody is, as the law provides, a serious matter. “But I didn’t do it!” is not a defense to escaping from a legal arrest, even if it’s true. One does not have the right to resist arrest, escape from custody, or otherwise impede the criminal justice system simply because one is innocent.
This is actually kind of a big deal. Felony convictions are nothing to sneeze at, even if one can get it down to time served. This would go on Castle’s criminal record. He would trigger all sorts of red flags on background checks and security checkpoints. He might even run into problems with the guns he owns. If I were Castle, I’d try to negotiate that down from a felony to a misdemeanor. Call it escape in the third degree, which is any time one escapes from custody. That’s a Class A misdemeanor. This would still show up on a criminal background check, but misdemeanor offenses aren’t nearly as problematic as felony convictions.
Castle, the fake cops, and whoever arranged the escape will also have to deal with a potential conspiracy charge. The conspiracy charge would probably be conspiracy in the fifth degree because they conspired to commit a class D felony. N.Y. Penal Law § 105.05. This is a ‘mere’ class A misdemeanor.
And what about Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito? They may be on the hook for hindering prosecution in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Penal Law § 205.55. That requires “rendering criminal assistance” to someone who has committed a felony (as Castle did). Rendering criminal assistance can be a lot of things (see § 205.50 for a list), but in can include “deliberate non-disclosure of the identity of a known felon to the police during a criminal investigation.” People v. Williams, 20 A.D. 3d 72, 76 (Sup. Ct. App. Div. 2005). That case distinguished between “the mere failure to report the commission of a felony to the police, on the one hand, and the affirmative act of concealing the identity of a known felon by false statement or material omission, on the other.” The former is not a crime in New York, but the latter apparently is. Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito’s concealment of Castle’s location may have been a material omission.
That theory is complicated by the fact that the police (i.e. Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito) were the ones doing the concealing. Beckett’s failure to disclose Castle’s location other information to Esposito during their first post-escape phone call probably qualifies. But after that the three of them are acting more as conspirators and less as people failing to disclose information to impartial police investigators.
Finally there’s the issue of the lawyer. It’s not clear who arranged the escape, but Castle was visited by his attorney, and he initially jokes that he escaped because of a “great lawyer.” We doubt the lawyer arranged the escape as such, but he may have been used to pass information to whoever did arrange it. If the message was coded or concealed (e.g. in a sealed envelope), then that’s not a problem. But if the lawyer knew what was up, then that’s a big problem. As a co-conspirator he would be liable for the same felony as Castle, which means an automatic disbarment under N.Y. Judiciary Law § 90(4)(a). Even if Castle pleas down to a misdemeanor, the lawyer would still likely be disbarred or suspended.