“Evading the police” For most people, being pulled over by a police officer is a stressful experience. A driver’s mind begins to sprint through fears the moment those lights flare behind them. Informed drivers understand that it is important to stay cool and simply look for a safe area to pull over. The same logic applies to other valid police directives issued outside of a vehicle. When officers command people to do (or stop doing) something, it is in their best interests to comply.
Failure to stop at a police officer’s signal may result in penalties for avoiding, fleeing, or eluding. State-law offenses may result in misdemeanor or felony prosecution.
This article offers more information regarding the criminal repercussions of escaping the police.
Table of contents
- Evading the Police: What exactly is evading the police?
- Penalties for Fleeing from the Police
- Evading the Police: Possible Police Evasion Defenses
- Evading the Police: What should you do if you’ve been accused of fleeing the police?
Evading the Police: What exactly is evading the police?
When someone purposefully escapes the scene despite a police officer’s order to stop, they may face charges of evading or fleeing the police. It is sometimes accused of being a kind of resistance to or hindering the police. Fleeing the scene does not have to happen right away. A driver may initially halt in response to a police order and then accelerate away. This may still support an evasion allegation, as it may lead the police on a lengthy chase before eventually pulling over. Dodging police is typically charged when a car leaves the scene, however, avoiding arrest on foot may also result in punishment.
Evading the Police: Elements of the Eluding the Police Crime
To prove a charge of escaping the police, the prosecution must establish numerous separate facts concerning the occurrence beyond a reasonable doubt. Different jurisdictions’ statutes have different requirements. Prosecutors may need to prove vehicle identification or officer attire in pursuit cases. Similarly, as part of the demand to stop, the officer’s vehicle may be compelled to employ a specific combination of lights and sirens.
The officer must issue an order to pursue without cars through verbal, hand gestures, or other methods. These elements can have a significant impact on the case’s result.
Consider a state-specific statute for fleeing the police. To obtain a conviction on a “fleeing or attempting to elude police” charge in Texas, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements:
- The defendant was driving a vehicle;
- The defendant willfully failed or refused to stop a vehicle, fled, or sought to avoid a following police car;
- The defendant received a visual or auditory signal (by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren) to halt;
- The cop was in uniform, with their badge readily displayed, and
- The law enforcement agency’s symbol was visible on the police vehicle.
While the aforementioned requirements are particular to an officer in a vehicle, the same concepts can apply to legal police instructions that do not involve cars. Individuals who fail to obey a clear police command, whether verbal or otherwise made fairly plain by a distinctively identified officer (wearing a police uniform and displaying a badge), may face charges of fleeing police.
Penalties for Fleeing from the Police
Depending on the circumstances, escaping or fleeing the police might result in a misdemeanor or felony penalty. In either scenario, the seriousness of the crime alleged determines the sanctions, which can include:
Penalties for Misdemeanors
Prosecutors have a lot of leeway in determining what offenses to charge and what kinds of plea deals to negotiate. Misdemeanors typically carry the following penalties:
- One year in prison;
- A fine (the amount varies according to jurisdiction); and
- Long-term license suspension of at least a year.
Penalties for Felonies
Felonies can also be punished in a variety of ways, depending on the seriousness of the crime. For example, if the defendant injures or kills someone while escaping, the sanctions will be harsher. Typical felony penalties include:
- Prison sentences of one year or more (with the option of probation);
- A fine that is greater than the fine for a misdemeanor
Evading the Police: Possible Police Evasion Defenses
Not every charge stemming from escaping the police will result in a conviction for the crime. A criminal charge of escaping the police has various conceivable defenses.
Absence of Intent
A prosecutor must demonstrate intent, or mens rea (in legal parlance). That is, the prosecutor would have to show that the defendant committed particular conduct with purpose.
Alibi / Mistaken Identity
The prosecution must establish who was driving the automobile. The prosecution’s case can be defeated if the officer fails to properly identify the driver or if the defendant has credible proof that demonstrates they were somewhere else at the time of the event.
Threats or duress
Even though the carjacking victim legally complied with the statute’s provisions, they may still be able to assert the legal defense of duress if they flee from the police at the robber’s urging while they are being held at gunpoint.
A person hurrying to the hospital due to a major medical emergency may be able to claim a legal defense for failing to stop at a police signal in some jurisdictions. In other places, the prosecution is likely to remind a person that ambulances exist for a reason, and the public harm of people speeding away from police cars outweighs any marginal benefit of being at the hospital a few minutes sooner. Even individuals found guilty of the underlying violation may discover that claiming need as a mitigating circumstance reduces the penalty.
Evading the Police: What should you do if you’ve been accused of fleeing the police?
If you have been charged with a traffic offense for escaping the police but believe you have a valid reason, you must raise one of the following defenses. As an example:
It was not your goal to flee: In order to be convicted of avoiding the police, the prosecution must prove you tried to flee on purpose. Your attorney may be able to demonstrate that you never intended to do so. This may be accomplished by demonstrating that the automobiles were not designated as police or that the officers were not in uniform.
There was no right to arrest or pull you over: The police cannot simply pull you over for any reason. If you can show that the officer has no legitimate grounds to pull you over, you may have a case against evasion.
There was an emergency: You might be able to avoid prosecution if you were rushing to the ER or a similar emergency. However, you will require verification of this in some form.