Fleeing and Eluding
When we turn on the daily news at night, we all say that we hope to see something positive, some good news in a world where it seems like good news is the exception rather than the rule. When it comes to police-citizen encounters, we hope to see police officers helping an elderly woman cross the street or participating in community trust building projects. And while some police officers undoubtedly engage in those types of commendable activities, those aren’t the types of police encounters that we so often hear about on the news.
Instead, we hear about Eric Garner, who was choked unconscious by police and later died from his injuries because he was illegally selling cigarettes. Or we hear about Philandro Castille who was shot and killed by an officer after telling him that he had a concealed weapon while his girlfriend filmed the entire camera on her cell phone. Or we see the news of Atatiana Jefferson who was killed by an officer while she cooked in her own kitchen with no announcement or warning. And people wonder why experienced Clearwater criminal attorneys tell their clients not to trust the police.
These are the news stories that we are inundated with nearly every week, and yet people are expected to and required by law to follow the orders and trust the decisions of police officers without question. Failure to follow their orders and to do as they command can and does lead to arrest and criminal charges. Some of those charges can be serious felonies with stiff penalties. Many of those offenses are left up to the discretion of the particular officer who files the criminal charges.
One of the more common and more serious charges arising from police-citizen encounters is fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer under Florida Statute 316.1935. Under the statute, “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.”
The specific language of the statute is important to dissect. When most people hear the title of the criminal charge of fleeing or eluding, they picture a high speed chase along a highway with a news helicopter documenting the chase. While that situation certainly falls under the fleeing and eluding statute, the truth is that much more innocent conduct can fall under the statute. For example, you do not even have to be speeding above the speed limit, or going fast at all to be charged with fleeing and eluding. The statute itself can be hard to understand, and that is another reason to retain an experienced Clearwater criminal lawyer to aid your defense.
Fleeing and eluding also carries unique and significant penalties. As a third degree felony, a conviction for fleeing and eluding can lead to a sentence up to five years in prison. Notably, fleeing and eluding also carries a mandatory adjudication, meaning that if convicted, the charge will remain on your record for life. Additionally, you will become a convicted felon and be stripped of many of your constitutional rights. If you are convicted of fleeing and eluding while an officer’s lights and sirens are activated and at a high speed, you can be convicted of a second degree felony, punishable by a harsh fifteen years in prison.Speak to a Lawyer Right Away
If you have found yourself charged with fleeing and eluding, don’t let the harsh penalties break your spirit. Speak to a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney to find out the best options to defend your case. The attorneys at Hanlon Law are here to defend your rights, so call us now at 727.897.5413.