Fleeing to Elude is a harshly prosecuted felony offense under Florida law. In many situations, the defendant will drive at a high rate of speed in order to evade a lawful stop by a police officer and as a result puts the lives of officers and other drivers at risk. Sometimes, the attempt to flee from police ends with an accident and property damage and or serious injuries or death. If you are charged with fleeing and eluding, you are facing a possible prison sentence and a mandatory felony conviction and driver’s license suspension. Because this charge is so harshly prosecuted and can have serious consequences on your life, it is important to hire an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.
Fleeing and attempting to elude is defined in Florida Statute 316.1935. Based on the statute, the prosecutor has to prove the following elements to convict someone of fleeing and attempting to elude:
The defendant was operating a motor vehicle
The defendant willfully refused to stop
After being ordered to stop by an authorized law enforcement officer, and
The defendant had knowledge that he was ordered to stop by a law enforcement officer.
Fleeing and eluding is a 3rd degree felony and punishable by up to 5 years of prison and a $5000 fine. Per Florida Statute 316.1935 the court is not allowed to withhold adjudication on this charge. This means that if found guilty of the offense or if you enter a plea to this charge, you will be a convicted felon. In addition, the statute also requires a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least 1 year but not more than 5 years.
However, the statute lays out several aggravating factors for fleeing to elude that can also enhance the possible sentence.
One aggravating factor is if the defendant flees and eludes a law enforcement officer in a marked patrol vehicle and the officer has his lights and sirens activated. This is also a 3rd degree felony and punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5000 fine.
Fleeing and Eluding is elevated to a 2nd degree felony if the law enforcement officer is in a marked patrol vehicle, has his lights and sirens activated and the defendant
Drives at a high rate of speed
Or drives “in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
This charge is punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Per statute the mandatory minimum sentence the court must impose is 3 years in prison.
Fleeing and Eluding is also enhanced to a 2nd degree felony if:
The defendant is in the process of leaving the scene of an accident or attempts to leave the scene of an accident
When a law enforcement officer orders the defendant to stop
And the defendant causes injury or damages the property of another person as a result of fleeing and eluding the officer’s order to stop.
Being a 2nd degree felony this charge is also punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The court must impose a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 3 years.
Fleeing and eluding will be elevated to a 1st degree felony if:
The defendant leaves or attempts to leave the scene of an accident
When a law enforcement officer gives an order to stop
And the defendant flees or attempts to flee from the officer and as a result of this causes either serious bodily injury or death of another person.
This charge is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The mandatory minimum sentence the court must impose is again 3 years in prison.
Given the potentially harsh penalties that are associated with fleeing and attempting to elude, it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Kerstin Wade has more than a decade of experience handling these type of charges and aggressively fights for all of her clients in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Kerstin Wade has an office in downtown Tampa, only a few miles from the courthouse. Contact Kerstin Wade today for a free consultation at 813-401-0130.