Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer
These days, news stories about police brutality and police shootings of unarmed people permeate our tv screens and radio stations. Fear of the police is no longer a topic kept under wraps, but it has become a subject of everyday life. These increased tensions between the public and law enforcement have also resulted in people being charged with criminal offenses. As law enforcement has the obvious power to arrest and charge people with crimes, this tension can certainly be one sided. If you have found yourself on the wrong side of an interaction with police, it is in your best interest to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer to build your defense.
One of the crimes often charged as a result of this growing tension between the public and the police is Fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer. Upon reading the title of the criminal charge, it is easy to envision a fugitive engaging law enforcement in a high speed chase followed by a news helicopter. But, as is true with many criminal offenses, laws can be more vague than they initially appear. The crime of fleeing or eluding encompasses a huge amount of factual scenarios.What is Fleeing or Eluding
Florida Statute 316.1935 states that “it is unlawful for the operator of any vehicle, having knowledge that he or she has been ordered to stop such vehicle by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, willfully to refuse or fail to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order or, having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, willfully to flee in an attempt to elude the officer.” A violation under this set of facts is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, along with hefty fines and probation.
The fleeing and eluding statute punishes offenses for different circumstances. For example, if you are charged with fleeing from a law enforcement officer, and at the time of the attempted stop the officer had lights and sirens activated, the offense is also considered a third degree felony. However, if during the course of fleeing, the accused drives “at a high speed,” the offense may be upgraded to a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years prison or probation.
While the state may be justified in upgrading the levels of certain offenses based on the facts of the case, the fact that a high speed is required to enhance a charge of fleeing or eluding brings up an interesting point. Because the high speed is an enhancement, it is clear that you may be charged with the base offense of fleeing and eluding even if you are driving at an extremely slow speed. This fact flies in the face of the traditional notion that fleeing and eluding involves a high speed chase. The truth is that an officer can charge someone with fleeing even in situations where the parties are moving at a slow speed if they don’t immediately pull over. Because of the vague nature of the law, it is all the more important that you consult with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with fleeing or eluding.
Fleeing or eluding has one other caveat that makes consulting with an attorney all the more critical. If you are found guilty at trial or by a plea of fleeing or eluding, the court is required to convict you and may not withhold adjudication. This means that if you are unable to get your charges reduced or dropped, you face the prospect of becoming a convicted felon with a permanent record.Speak to an Attorney Today
The lawyers at Hanlon Law have the skill and experience necessary to defend you on the charges of fleeing or eluding. Because of the vague law and the harsh penalties, speaking with a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer can make all the difference to your case. Call us today at 727.897.5413.