Eric J. Dirga, P.A., Criminal Traffic Defense, Telephone 407-841-5555

FLEEING AND ATTEMPTING TO ELUDE THE POLICE

Fleeing and eluding law enforcement has a Hollywood ring to it. Unfortunately it is a very serious offense. We are required to obey the directions of law enforcement while on the road to include police outside of a vehicle using hand signals. When a police car tries to pull you over using lights and/or siren you must take immediate steps to comply. Failing to comply can result in this offense being charged against you.


Section 316.1935, Florida Statutes

There are several variations to this crime:

Fleeing from a Law Enforcment Officer, Subsection (1)

It is unlawful for the operator of any vehicle, having knowledge that he or she has been ordered to stop such vehicle by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, willfully to refuse or fail to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order or, having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, willfully to flee in an attempt to elude the officer.

This is a level 1 Third Degree Felony. It is punishishable by up to 5-years in prison and up to a $5,000.00 fine. There is no minimum mandatory sentence for this offense (but see Collateral Consequences below. This is the lowest level felony in the Florida Justice System.

Fleeing a Law Enforcement Vehicle, Subsection (2)

Any person who willfully flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle, with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with siren and lights activated commits a felony of the third degree.

This is a level 3 Third Degree Felony. It is punishishable by up to 5-years in prison and up to a $5,000.00 fine. There is no minimum mandatory sentence for this offense (but see Collateral Consequences below.

Fleeing a Law Enforcement Vehicle, Subsection (3)

Any person who willfully flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle, with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with siren and lights activated, and during the course of the fleeing or attempted eluding:

  • (a) Drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, commits a felony of the second degree.
  • (b) Drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, and causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, including any law enforcement officer involved in pursuing or otherwise attempting to effect a stop of the person’s vehicle, commits a felony of the first degree.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall sentence any person convicted of committing the offense described in this paragraph to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment.

This is a level 4 Second Degree Felony (a) or a level 7 First Degree Felony (b). It is punishable by up to 15-years (a) or 30-years (b) in prison. The minimum mandatory sentence is 3-years in prison.

Fleeing a Law Enforcement Vehicle, Subsection (4)

Any person who, in the course of unlawfully leaving or attempting to leave the scene of a crash having knowledge of an order to stop by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, willfully refuses or fails to stop in compliance with such an order, or having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, willfully flees in an attempt to elude such officer and, as a result of such fleeing or eluding:

  • (a) Causes injury to another person or causes damage to any property belonging to another person, commits aggravated fleeing or eluding, a felony of the second degree.
  • (b) Causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, including any law enforcement officer involved in pursuing or otherwise attempting to effect a stop of the person’s vehicle, commits aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, a felony of the first degree.

The felony of aggravated fleeing or eluding and the felony of aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death constitute separate offenses for which a person may be charged, in addition to the offenses involving accidents with damage to property or injuries relating to unlawfully leaving the scene of a crash, which the person had been in the course of committing or attempting to commit when the order to stop was given. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall sentence any person convicted of committing aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment. Nothing in this subsection shall prevent a court from imposing a greater sentence of incarceration as authorized by law.

This can be a level 5 Second Degree Felony (a), punishable by 15-years in prison, or a level 8 First Degree Felony, punishable by up to 30-years in prison. There is a minimum mandatory 3-year prison sentence requirement.


Collateral Consequences

Driver's License Suspension

The court must suspend your driving privileges for at least 1-year and up to 5-years for any conviction involving this offense. If the court does not announce a license suspension at sentencing the Department will issue a 1-year driver's license suspension.

Mandatory Adjudication of Guilt if Found Guilty

The court cannot withhold the adjudication of guilt if you have been found guilty of this offense. The court cannot defer or suspend the imposition of sentence.

Vehicle Can Be Seized

Law enforcement can move to seize any vehicle involved in this offense. Seizure is the process used by law enforcement to take away your vehicle permanently.


Defenses, Case Law

Matheny v. State, 15 So.3d 658 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009): Question of whether defendant was actually trying to flee law enforcement or just speeding is a question for the jury to decide.

Slack v. State, 30 So.3d 684 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010): In order to obtain a conviction for felony fleeing from a law enforcement vehicle the state must show that the defendant fled from a patrol vehicle with insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle. When the officer only testifies that he was driving a marked patrol car without more the court should grant J.O.A..

Koch v. State, 39 So.3d 464 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010): Section 316.072, Florida Statutes, obedience to police and fire officials, is a catagory 2 lesser included offense of fleeing under section 316. 1935(2).

Steil v. State, 974 So.2d 589 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008): Officer's estimation of speed 15-20 mph over speed limit and fact that during most of the chase the officer had not activated his emergency lights and siren is insufficient to satisfy the elements of section 316.1935(3)(a), Florida Statutes.


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