Fleeing and Eluding
In Florida, fleeing and eluding, also sometimes referred to as fleeing and eluding an officer, is when a driver fails to stop or remain stopped as ordered by a law enforcement officer.
The Ansara Law Firm Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers recognize fleeing and eluding is a serious criminal offense. Penalties for a conviction on a fleeing and eluding charge include prison and mandatory revocation of your driver’s license.
If you are arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding in Florida, it’s important to consult with an experienced defense attorney to examine your legal options. This is especially true if you are charged with any of the sub-types of fleeing and eluding that are considered aggravating offenses, which can result in tougher jail sentences and other enhanced penalties.Understanding Fleeing and Eluding
Florida defines “Fleeing and Eluding” in F.S. 316.1935. The law makes it a crime for a motorist who knows that a law enforcement officer has ordered him to stop his vehicle to willfully refuse to stop and comply.
There are three basic elements of a fleeing and eluding offense:
- Defendant was operating a motor vehicle on a Florida street or highway;
- A law enforcement officer who was duly authorized ordered the person to stop or to stay stopped;
- The person, knowing he or she had received this directive by a police officer, either willfully refused to stop his or her vehicle or, having already stopped, willfully fled in an attempt to get away from the officer.
These are just the basics for violation of the general offense. There are a number of factors that could result in enhanced penalties for fleeing and eluding. These include:
- Sirens and Lights Activated. If you flee from an officer while the officer’s lights and sirens are activated on the cruiser, you could face additional penalties. This charge requires that the vehicle from which the driver fled was a law enforcement patrol vehicle with the agency’s insignia emblazoned on it.
- Lights and Sirens Activated AND High Speed or Reckless. This element involves not only fleeing from an officer whose lights and sirens are on, but while doing so showing a blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of other people or their property.
- Sirens and Lights Activated AND High Speed/ Reckless AND Causing Serious Bodily Injury or Death. This aggravating factor includes all the elements of the other two mentioned, but also involves the defendant, by and through these actions, causing serious bodily injury or death to another person or a law enforcement officer involved in the chase.
Penalties for fleeing or eluding can be severe, with a good possibility of prison time even for a first-time offender.
Of course, it’s better to avoid conviction by having the charge reduced or dropped if you can. Your attorney can explain more about that. If you are convicted, your possible sentence is going to depend on the circumstances of your case, your prior criminal history and any aggravating or mitigating factors presented to the court.
- Fleeing and Eluding (General with no aggravating factors). This is considered a third-degree felony. That carries with it a maximum five-year prison term, as well as up to 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine. Conviction will also result in a minimum mandatory 1-year driver’s license revocation, with a maximum revocation period of up to 5 years.
- Fleeing and Eluding, Lights and Sirens Activated. This is also considered a third-degree felony, with all the aforementioned maximum penalties. Generally, someone charged with this offense will receive a harsher sentence than someone convicted of fleeing and eluding without lights and sirens activated.
- Fleeing and Eluding, Lights and Sirens, High Speed/ Reckless. This charge is considered a second-degree felony. As such, it carries a maximum penalty of 15 years behind bars, up to 15 years of probation and a $10,000 fine. There is also a mandatory revocation of one’s driver’s license for between 1 and 5 years.
- Fleeing and Eluding, Lights and Sirens, High Speed/ Reckless, Causing Bodily Injury or Death. This is extremely serious. You are now looking at a first-degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, a $10,000 fine and a 1-to-5-year driver’s license revocation. With this charge, if you are convicted, the minimum mandatory penalty is 3 years in prison. There is no going any lower if you are convicted of this.
If you are charged with fleeing and eluding, your attorney may explore a number of strategies for defending your case. These may include:
- Determining whether the order to stop was adequately communicated to the defendant.
- Figuring out whether the defendant knew the attempted stop was initiated by an actual law enforcement officer.
- Ascertaining whether the fleeing to elude was in fact willful or if there were extenuating circumstances for why the defendant could not stop.
- In cases where the aggravating factors are charged, we’d want to determine whether the officer was in fact in a patrol vehicle with the insignia clearly marked on the vehicle and proof that the lights and sirens were activated.
This is a very serious criminal charge. You should only trust your defense to a law firm with extensive experience and proven success in handling these types of cases.
Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (877)-ARREST-0 (277-3780).