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A driver who flees after a police officer issues an order to stop has likely committed a criminal offense: evading (or eluding) a law enforcement officer. It’s a crime that can lead to serious penalties.
An individual who doesn’t stop promptly after a police officer issues an order, whether it’s a police cruiser with its lights flashing or an officer telling them to stop, could face charges for evading, fleeing, or eluding a law enforcement officer. This is a state law criminal charge that may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Some example of evading include:
A conviction for evading the police requires the prosecution to establish several different facts about the incident. For example, it must be established that the police vehicle in pursuit was distinctively marked or that the officer was in full uniform and (if in a vehicle) that sirens were sounded as reasonably as possible. The officer’s vehicle must exhibit at least one red light to indicate the demand to stop.
To be prosecuted for the crime, the following elements must be shown:
You “willfully” tried to flee
Evading an officer is a “specific intent” crime that is, it requires that you specifically intended to commit the crime and willfully did so. If you fled from the police officer for a reason other than purposefully and willfully disobeying the officer’s orders, then you cannot be found guilty of the offense.
Requirements for the car
Motor vehicle context, flashing lights and sirens are considered an order to stop. Sometimes simply displaying a badge may be enough in certain circumstances. The prosecution cannot sustain a charge if the officer was issuing an order when they were not on duty or when there was no reason to think that they were an officer.
That the officer be in uniform
The code requires that the officer be in “distinctive uniform”. This does not mean that the officer needs to wear a full uniform but that he must be attired in a manner that distinguishes him or her from a layperson.
While the elements listed above are specific to an officer in a vehicle, the same principles apply to legitimate police commands that don’t involve vehicles. In such cases, individuals who fail to heed a clear police command, whether it’s verbal or otherwise made reasonably clear by a distinctively marked officer (wearing a police uniform, showing a badge), may be charged for evading police.
If you are charged with evading a police officer, you can either be charged with a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense. The circumstances surrounding the offense will dictate whether the prosecutor charges you with a felony or a misdemeanor.
“Police can stop a vehicle at any time to determine whether the driver has consumed drugs or alcohol, to see whether the car is mechanically fit, to check whether the driver has a valid licence, or to ensure the driver has insurance,” Laura Berger, interim director of policing and public safety for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said in an email.
Anybody who fails to stop can be convicted of the offence and be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $10,000, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 6 months, or to both a fine and imprisonment.
If you are convicted of willfully avoiding police when an officer gives pursuit, you can face more serious penalties which could be a fine between $5,000 and $25,000 as well as a minimum imprisonment for a term of not less than 14 days and not more than six months. In addition, a driver’s licence will be suspended for five years, or 10 years to lifetime if there was death or bodily harm to any person.
If while you were evading a police officer, you caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, you face up to 10 years in a state prison. You could also face manslaughter charges, DUI murder charges, and more. If while you were evading a police officer, you drove against oncoming traffic on a freeway, you can face enhanced penalties, including up to 3 years in state prison.
Being charged with the crime of evading a police officer is not the same as having committed the crime. There are some possible defenses a evading a police officer charge:
Criminal charges can be complex, requiring much gathering of evidence and information. It’s highly advised that you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney that will be able to advise you on the best defense. We understand your situation if you have been charged with any form evading an officer or with a similar crime like resisting arrest. It may seem like there is no way to overcome the prosecution and you may be tempted to simply go unrepresented or rely on a busy, inexperienced public defender.
However, when the stakes are so high, you cannot afford to be without the very best possible legal representation.
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