FLEEING AND ELUDING POLICE IN PA
You may be charged with Fleeing and Attempting to Elude a Police Officer in Pennsylvania for conduct that is far less severe than the police chases you see on television. If you are facing this charge, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who may be able to help negotiate a reduction or dismissal of this serious criminal traffic violation.
FLEEING AND ATTEMPTING TO ELUDE POLICE DEFINED
The Fleeing and Eluding Police statute is found at Title 75 Section 3733 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle code, and reads as follows: "Any driver of a motor vehicle who willfully fails or refuses to bring his vehicle to a stop, or who otherwise flees or attempts to elude a pursuing police officer, when given a visual and audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop, commits an offense." The types of signals a police officer can use includes hand signals, verbal signals, emergency lights or emergency sirens.
There are two gradings for Fleeing and Eluding Police charges:
- 3rd Degree Felony: Punishable by up to 7 years in prison if you fail to bring vehicle to stop AND you were either Driving Under the Influence, crossed state lines, or endangered police or the public by engaging in a high speed chase.
- 2nd Degree Misdemeanor: Punishable by up to 2 years in prison if you simply fail to bring your vehicle to a stop.
PENALTIES FOR FLEEING AND ELUDING POLICE
There are many severe penalties that may apply if you are found guilty of Fleeing and Attempting to Elude a Police Officer, which include:
- Prison sentence up to 7 years for felony charge or 2 years for misdemeanor charge;
- Permanent criminal record;
- Mandatory license suspension of 12 months for a first offense;
- Increase in auto insurance premiums or possible denial of coverage;
- Loss of employment or of future employment opportunities;
- Mandatory $500 fine.
DEFENSES TO FLEEING AND ELUDING POLICE CHARGE
The most common and strongest defense to this charge is if you did not stop immediately because you had a good faith concern for your own personal safety. The person charged must prove this defense by a preponderance of the evidence, or by a more likely than not standard. Factors the court will consider include the time and location of the event, the type of vehicle used by the police (i.e. marked vs. unmarked), your conduct when being followed by the police (i.e. slowed speed, activated warning signals), and whether or not you stopped at the first available lighted or populated area. For example, if police activate their lights and sirens, and you continue driving for another 200 feet at a normal speed to pass guard rails and locate the first available roadway berm, you may be found not guilty of fleeing and eluding.
Another defense includes when a pursuing police officer is driving an unmarked vehicle and was not occupied by a uniformed police officer displaying a badge or other sign of authority.
Finally, the Commonwealth must prove that you willfully failed to stop your vehicle, or that you were aware of the signal to stop and refused to do so. Depending upon the location, visibility and type of signal used, your attorney may argue that the Commonwealth cannot prove you were aware of the signal, or that you stopped your vehicle after you became aware. For example, if the officer is two blocks behind you, activates lights only, and you make a quick right turn, you may not see the lights until you hit a straight-away portion of roadway. However, you should not be held accountable for the distance you drove when your visibility was limited.
HOW THE ZUCKERMAN LAW FIRM CAN HELP
If convicted of Fleeing and Eluding, you will forever be known as someone who ran from police. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the local court system is critical, as each county may take a different stance with these types of cases.
As a former vehicle crimes prosecutor, Attorney Dave Zuckerman has prosecuted and defended those accused of Fleeing and Eluding Police throughout Western Pennsylvania. We will work with the local prosecutor and law enforcement to negotiate the best possible result for your case, which may include entry into the ARD program, a withdrawal or amendment of the charge, or probation instead of prison time.
For a free consultation, call the Zuckerman Law Firm now at 412-447-5580.