One of the most basic understandings that the public has with law enforcement officers is that when a member of the police force asks or signals for someone to stop, they do so. However, in reality, not everyone stops when an officer hails them, either because they choose not to or because they did not see or were not aware of the officer’s request. In some cases, this behavior can result in a misdemeanor.
The Basic Definition Of Eluding The Police
Eluding the police, on its most basic level, is failing to stop when a police officer signals either visually or audibly to cease operation of a motor vehicle. This usually happens when someone sees a police officer behind them with their lights on and chooses not to stop.
Continuing to drive with a disregard for the officer’s signal, even if you are not actively attempting to escape, can still be considered eluding the police. If an officer requests that you pull over, you must pull over, and failing to do so is a criminal action.
The Varying Levels Of Elusive Behavior
Some types of elusive behavior will receive less stringent penalties than others. At the baseline is simple disregard for the officer’s warning. If a police officer turns on their lights and drives behind you and you continue to drive without stopping, you will receive a misdemeanor for eluding.
Above this level is attempted escape. Those who actively make maneuvers to avoid the officer, such as by speeding up or turning, may receive harsher penalties. However, if you simply turn onto a side road or make other moves that are still considered elusive but do not force the police into an active chase, this may be a misdemeanor.
Beyond this, penalties become significantly worse, quickly. If you attempt to elude a police officer by failing to stop and by actively interfering with the officer or another individual, you could receive upwards of a Class 6 felony. This may occur, for example, if you run your car into the police cruiser or endanger a member of the public with your actions, such as by jumping a curb to get away.
The action with the worst consequences in eluding cases is killing a police officer. If an officer is killed while pursuing you, you could be charged with a Class 4 felony.
Potential Penalties For Eluding The Police In Virginia
Most minor punishments for eluding the police come with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which means that you can expect to pay up to $1,000 in fines, serve half a year in jail or both; they are not mutually exclusive. A Class 6 felony is significantly more lenient than a Class 4; expect a fine of no more than $2,500 and the potential for prison time of up to 5 years. The Class 4 felony fine can reach $100,000, and you may spend between 2 and 10 years in prison. Regardless of which type of eluding you are convicted of, you will have your license suspended.
The details determine for how long it will be suspended; generally, it will be a minimum of 30 days unless you were exceeding the speed limit by at least 20 miles per hour during the chase, in which case the suspension must be at least 90 days.
What To Do In Court
It can be difficult to avoid a conviction of eluding the police on your own; however, an experienced attorney can present specific key elements of your case. The lynchpin of an eluding case is that you received a visual or audio signal indicating that you must stop.
This does not simply mean that the officer gave such a signal, but also that you actually received it. If your legal representative can cast reasonable doubt on this aspect of the case, the judge or jury may not be able to convict. Your attorney may also be able to prove that you did not believe that the individual who was asking you to stop was a law enforcement officer.
Unlike the first defense, which requires the Commonwealth to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you received the signal, being pursued by a non-officer is an affirmative defense that requires you to prove it to the court.
Work With An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with eluding the police, you still have options. The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to help you explore possible solutions and strategies for your case. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense attorney, allowing you to focus on what to do next.