Fleeing and eluding a police officer is a felony in Florida. If you receive a conviction for this offense, you could face jail time, fines, or probation. So, it is important to understand the consequences of fleeing and eluding so you can make an informed decision about how to respond if the police stop you.
Here are a few tips from an experienced criminal defense attorney about charges for eluding a police officer.
Definition of Fleeing and Eluding
Section 316.1935 of the Florida Statutes defines the crime of fleeing and eluding as the failure to stop your vehicle in a timely and safe manner when ordered to do so by a law enforcement officer.
This officer must have emergency lights activated while in a fully marked patrol car. Thus failure to stop is often considered a felony offense. And punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both.
In some states, they consider fleeing and eluding a crime of violence. Which can result in enhanced penalties. If you receive accusations of fleeing and eluding, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Because they can help you understand the charges against you and your legal options.
Categories of Fleeing and Eluding
There are several categories of fleeing and eluding offenses in Florida. Let’s take a look at some of these charges.
Without Sirens Activated
This is a different charge if the officer’s sirens are not activated. It is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
With Sirens Activated
The penalty for fleeing and eluding with sirens activated is a felony third-degree charge. This is punishable by a prison term of up to 5 years and a $5,000 fine.
Aggravated Fleeing and Eluding
Fleeing and eluding with wanton disregard for the safety of others is aggravated fleeing and eluding. This is a felony third-degree charge punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine.
High Speed or Reckless Driving
If you receive an accusation of fleeing and eluding while driving at a high rate of speed or in a reckless manner, you will be charged with a felony third-degree. This is punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
Causing Property Damage or Personal Injury
Now, if you receive an accusation of fleeing and eluding and causing damage to someone else’s property or personal injury. Then they will charge you with a felony of the first degree. This is punishable by a prison term of up to thirty years and a $10,000 fine.
Causing Serious Bodily Harm or Death
The penalties for this offense are much harsher as it is classified as a first-degree felony. It is punishable by a prison term of up to 30 years and a $10,000 fine. If the victim suffers permanent disability or disfigurement, the penalties increase to up to life in prison.
If you receive a conviction of fleeing and eluding, you may also have your driver’s license suspended for up to five years. In addition, your vehicle may be impounded for up to 90 days.
Possible Defenses to Fleeing and Eluding Charges
There are several possible defenses to fleeing and eluding charges. Some of these defenses include the following.
The police officer did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle. Or, you were not given a clear and concise order to stop your vehicle. You did not have the opportunity to safely stop your vehicle.
You were not fleeing or eluding, but rather were trying to comply with the officer’s orders in a safe and reasonable manner. The police officer used excessive force in attempting to stop your vehicle. You were not the driver of the vehicle at the time of the incident.
There is insufficient evidence to prove that you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. You suffer from a mental illness or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, which prevented you from understanding the police officer’s orders or acting in a reasonable manner.
You were a victim of entrapment by the police. Mistaken identity, lack of knowledge (the defendant didn’t know the officer was trying to pull them over), or there was a medical emergency.
Mandatory Adjudication of Guilt for Fleeing or Eluding
This means that you receive a conviction and will have a criminal record. A conviction for fleeing or eluding can have significant consequences, including jail time, a loss of driving privileges, and a permanent criminal record.
In Florida, if you receive a conviction of a felony, you must serve a mandatory minimum sentence. This means that you will not be eligible for probation or any other form of early release.
What Is the Prosecutor’s Responsibility?
To convict you of fleeing or eluding, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully and knowingly violated the law. The prosecutor must also prove that you had the opportunity to stop your vehicle in a safe and reasonable manner, but failed to do so.
If the prosecutor cannot prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then you cannot receive a conviction of fleeing or eluding. To receive a conviction of fleeing or eluding, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were driving a vehicle
- A law enforcement officer gave you a visual or audible signal to stop your vehicle
- You willfully failed or refused to stop your vehicle in compliance with the signal
The prosecutor does not have to prove that you intended to flee or elude the police officer.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you face a fleeing and eluding charge, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Because they can review the facts of your case and develop a strong defense. Plus, an experienced attorney will also be able to negotiate with prosecutors for a reduced sentence or dismissal of charges.
The penalties for fleeing and eluding are severe and can have a lasting impact on your life. Do not face these charges alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney will fight for you. Consult with us today.
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