Fleeing and eluding law enforcement has become a very serious crime. It used to be treated as a misdemeanor. It appears that after many police shows exposing some really dangerous driving in fleeing and eluding cases; the legislature has made it a felony, which could land you in prison for five years and a $5,000 fine. Even worse, depending upon the circumstances, you could be charged with a second or even first-degree felony (15/30 years in prison).
Harsh Penalties for Fleeing & Eluding
Keep in mind that if you are convicted of a fleeing and eluding charge, the sentence must, by statute, include:
- A mandatory suspension of your driver’s license (1 to 5 years);
- A mandatory 3-year term in prison with no gain time if anyone suffers serious bodily injury as a result of the fleeing; and
- A mandatory adjudication.
You need aggressive and knowledgeable representation
Contact Morgan & Barbary’s experienced Melbourne, FL defense lawyer, Darrell Sedgwick, for a FREE telephone consultation: 321-951-3400. See our Arrest Tips and answers to other Frequently Asked Questions if you’ve been taken into custody.
The statutorily required sentence means that you will become a convicted felon (with no way to seal your record), and will be subject to the mandatory convicted-felon reporting conditions, etc.
The statute was designed to address people we have all seen on TV, fleeing and eluding, running red lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, and exposing others to great danger. Unethical officers now sometimes abuse it.
The Problem with the New Legislation
Watch for nuances, as the nuances don’t seem to exist anymore. Not stopping fast enough for Mr. Copper is becoming the same crime as endangering a bunch of folks by driving away from the law like a maniac.
Some rare dishonest officers have abused, and continue to abuse, this statute. We had a case in which our client was driving through his neighborhood on his Harley motorcycle (with his girlfriend on the back) at 25 MPH. He acknowledged the officer who was behind him and signaled to the officer that he was stopping, but as it was dark and there was no place to stop, he drove a few hundred feet (approximately 35 seconds) to his driveway, all the time maintaining the same 25 MPH speed. The officer jumped on him and charged him with a felony fleeing and eluding. Luckily, the alleged “chase” was videotaped, and the prosecutor agreed that the charge was bogus and dismissed it.
Sadly, you will not always have videotapes proving your side of the incident available in evidence. And if you don’t, this very serious crime will be based solely on the affidavit made by the officer. Rarely will you see any other witnesses in the officer’s report.
Because of the severity of these charges, and the associated penalties, it is extremely important to retain a criminal defense lawyer early on. In the few days after the arrest, a good criminal defense attorney will be in touch with the intake prosecutor making a filing decision and provide him or her with your side of the story.
You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Don’t try to resolve a fleeing and eluding case alone, you’ll likely fail. For more information on the fleeing and eluding law, review the Florida statute in full: 316.1935 Fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer; aggravated fleeing or eluding.