When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, you may panic and feel your heart drop into your stomach. Stress is a natural and even appropriate response to a traffic stop. Attempting to evade the police, however, is not.
When the police attempt to flag you down — whether via voice command, flashing lights or hand gestures — you have a legal obligation to stop. If you attempt to evade or elude law enforcement in any way, or if you attempt to flee from an officer, you could face felony or misdemeanor charges. FindLaw explores the penalties for evading the police and possible defenses.
Penalties for evading the police
The consequences for evading the police depend largely on whether the state charges you with a misdemeanor or felony crime. The severity of your charges further hinges on the circumstances surrounding the event.
If you receive misdemeanor charges for an evasion offense, you may receive a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. The state may suspend your driver’s license for up to one year.
The state may decide to charge you with a felony offense if aggravating factors exist in connection with your offense. For instance, if you flee the scene of an accident in which another person sustained injuries or died, you could face substantially greater consequences. The standard penalties for a felony offense involving evasion include time in state prison, one-year driver’s license suspension, a fine of up to $10,000 and vehicle impoundment.
Common defenses to police evasion
If you face evasion charges, it is essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with standard defenses and who can help you build a strong defense. Though the best defense for your case depends on the evidence for and against you and your reasoning for evading police (if you did attempt to flee), defenses that commonly yield favorable outcomes include lack of intent, mistaken identity, necessity and duress/threat. You may also obtain a favorable outcome if you can prove that you were elsewhere at the time of the incident.