Fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, Florida Statute 316.1935, is one of those charges – like Resisting Arrest – that defendants generally rack up after being caught in the act of committing another crime.
“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.”
It is not uncommon for Fleeing and Eluding, Resisting Arrest, and Reckless Driving charges to arise from a single criminal episode. For example, after leading police on a wild car chase, a Melbourne man faced those three charges in addition to the weapons charges stemming from the shooting incident that started the whole incident.
Is Fleeing to Elude a Felony in Florida?
Yes. It’s a third-degree felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison, along with fines and probation. You could also lose your driver’s license for up to five years – and you could lose your wheels permanently. Under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can confiscate a vehicle (or a boat) used to flee police.
The law is more severe if, in your attempt to flee, you drive recklessly. The law defines it as driving “at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Prosecutors then bring charges of aggravated fleeing or eluding. It’s a second-degree felony with up to 15 years of prison, plus probation and a fine of up to $10,000. You could also lose your driver’s license for a minimum of one year.
If your high-speed chase gets someone killed or seriously injured, you’re looking at first- degree felony charges. Aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison with a maximum sentence of 30 years. Also, the state imposes probation and a fine of up to $10,000 as well as a minimum one-year driver’s license suspension.
Fleeing and Eluding Charges Can Apply to any Getaway Vehicle
- A Seminole County teen was arrested and charged with Fleeing to Elude and Resisting arrest via bicycle. He allegedly pedaled through a Stop sign and kept on going after Seminole County Sheriff’s deputy ordered him to pull over.
- Florida Highway Patrol troopers reportedly clocked a Tampa woman on a motorcycle at 150 mph as they chased her through drive-time traffic on Interstate 275. They charged her with reckless driving and fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer with lights and sirens activated. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles now owns her BMW S-1000RR Superbike.
- An officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested a Citrus County man for speeding through a Manatee Zone on a Jet Ski. They charged him with resisting arrest and fleeing in a vessel to elude lawenforcement.
Fleeing to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer Florida Defense
A smart and aggressive criminal defense attorney can provide numerous defense to charges of fleeing to elude. As is often the case, the key words in a criminal charge defense in Florida are “knowingly” and “willingly”. For example, if your lawyer can make the case that law enforcement officers failed to clearly identify themselves, the charges may be dismissed.
Much of the evidence in these cases is in the form of GPS or cell phone data or video recordings from a dashboard or body camera. That’s why it’s important to get with a lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can file a Notice to Preserveso that favorable evidence doesn’t get “lost” or accidentally destroyed.
A good lawyer will fight first and foremost to persuade the prosecutor not to bring charges. In situations where that’s not possible, a good criminal defense attorney will work toward the best possible outcome in your case by arguing for reduced charges. For example, a jury convicted a Florida man on charges of fleeing and eluding a police officer. It was a third- degree felony with a possible five-year prison sentence.
But an appeals court ruled that the jury should have been given the option of considering the lesser charge of Failure to Obey a Lawful Order by Law Enforcement. The failure to obey charge is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of 60 days in jail.
A smart and tenacious criminal defense attorney can make all the difference. If you face criminal charges in Florida, call 407-349-4211 for a free consultation with the Orlando criminal defense lawyers at the Rivas Law Firm.