Fleeing and Eluding Law Enforcement Officers
In Florida, purposely failing to stop a vehicle after being ordered to do so by a member of law enforcement is a serious offense, known as fleeing and eluding. This offense is considered a felony and so carries with it the possibility of a prison sentence and the payment of a hefty fine. If you or a loved one has been charged with fleeing and eluding the police, it is vital to retain the service of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help defend your rights.
Fleeing and Eluding
A person has committed the offense of fleeing and eluding a police officer if:
- He or she was operating a vehicle;
- A law enforcement officer ordered the driver to stop the car or remain stopped; and
- The driver, knowing that he or she had been ordered to stop, either willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle, or stopped the vehicle and then willfully fled in an attempt to elude the officer.
This offense is punishable as a third degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of a five year prison sentence or five years of probation, and the payment of a $5,000 fine. A conviction also results in the revocation of the driver’s license for between one and five years.
In certain situations, a suspect may be charged with a second degree felony or higher for the same offense if he or she:
- Failed to stop a vehicle or fled the scene after stopping when the officer was driving an authorized patrol vehicle with agency insignia displayed and activated sirens and lights;
- Engaged in reckless driving at a high speed that showed a wanton disregard for the safety of others, after an officer activated his or her sirens and lights; or
- Caused death or a serious bodily injury to another person or to the pursuing officer while driving recklessly in an effort to elude an officer who had activated his or her sirens and lights.
A person convicted of fleeing and eluding a police officer while driving recklessly could be charged with a second degree felony, which carries a penalty of a 15-year prison sentence, a $10,000 fine, and the mandatory revocation of his or her driver’s license. If a person sustained a serious bodily injury or was killed during the commission of the offense, the defendant faces a minimum of three years and a maximum of thirty years in prison.
There are a number of defenses available to those who have been charged with this offense, including that:
- The suspect’s failure to stop was not willful;
- The accused was unaware that the stop was initiated by a law enforcement officer;
- The order to stop was not clearly communicated to the driver;
- The driver’s failure to stop was driven by necessity; or
- The patrol car was not properly marked with jurisdictional markings or the agency’s symbol.
If you have been arrested for fleeing or eluding a police officer, an experienced attorney may be able to help get the charges reduced or even dismissed. Please contact the dedicated and experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein to schedule an initial consultation.