In the state of Florida—as in most states—it is a criminal offense to flee and elude law enforcement. If you flee, specifically to elude a police officer in Florida, you could face felony charges, and, should you be convicted of the offense, some fairly harsh penalties. Under Florida Statutes, Section 316.1935, it is unlawful for the driver of a car, pickup, motorcycle, truck, or any other motor vehicle to willfully refuse to stop after a police officer has ordered them to do so. Even if the person initially complies with the officer’s order to stop, then flees afterwards in a willful attempt to elude, that person has violated the Florida statutes regarding fleeing to elude.
Prior to July 1, 2003, a person who refused to stop after being told to do so by law enforcement committed a first-degree misdemeanor if the officer’s lights and sirens were not activated. If convicted of the crime, that person would face up to twelve months in a Florida county jail, and/or twelve months of probation, with the total sentence not to exceed one year. The law, prior to 2003, also contained no provision regarding withholding adjudication, there was no minimum mandatory sentencing requirements, and the court could choose to suspend the offender’s driver’s license or not—although a license could not be suspended for longer than one year. After the statute was amended, the penalties for fleeing to elude law enforcement became much more severe.
Potential Penalties for a Fleeing to Elude Law Enforcement Conviction
Now, even when an officer’s lights and sirens are not activated, if you willfully refuse to stop your vehicle after being directed to do so by a law enforcement officer, you have committed a third-degree felony. The following penalties apply to a conviction of fleeing to elude law enforcement:
- You could face up to five years in a Florida state prison;
- You will face a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license, ranging from one to five years if you are convicted of Fleeing to Elude;
- If the officer’s lights and sirens are activated, your offense is considered a third-degree felony, but a level one for purposes of sentencing guidelines (the higher the level, the more likely the court will require you to do jail), with a “one” being as “easy” as it gets unless you have a prior criminal record;
- If the officer’s lights and sirens are activated and the vehicle has prominently displayed jurisdictional markings, your offense is considered a third-degree felony, but a level three—a higher offense for sentencing purposes;
- If the officer’s lights and sirens are activated, the vehicle has prominently displayed jurisdictional markings, and you are driving at a high rate of speed in a manner which demonstrates a disregard for the safety of others, your offense is considered a second-degree felony, but is considered a level four for sentencing guidelines. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida state prison.
- Under the same circumstances as above, adding in serious bodily injury or death caused to another person as a result of your fleeing to elude, you have committed a first-degree felony, considered a level seven for sentencing purposes, and is punishable by up to thirty years in Florida state prison. This offense brings a mandatory minimum sentence of three-years in Florida state prison.
The most significant change in the statute, following the 2003 amendments, was the addition of a subsection which prevents courts from suspending, deferring, or withholding adjudication of guilt or imposition of a sentence for a violation, meaning even a first-time offender must be adjudicated guilty if found guilting by a jury or after entering a guilty plea.
As you can see, the crime of fleeing to elude law enforcement in the state of Florida is extremely serious, with very harsh penalties. Because of this, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney from The Law Place as soon as possible. We have helped others who have been charged with fleeing to elude, and will work hard on your behalf for the best possible outcome. The Law Place’s criminal defense attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable, and understand you are not a bad person, rather are a person who made a mistake, and now need guidance. Contact The Law Place today by calling 941-444-4444.