Refusing to stop for police or evading a police officer is the criminal act of not stopping when told to by a police officer. It does not matter whether the police officer verbally instructs a person to stop or flashes their lights.
A person can be charged with misdemeanor eluding police that is punishable by six months in county jail and/or $1,000 fine, or they could be charged with a felony. The type of evading police felony that a person is charged with depends on the facts of the case.
To be prosecuted for the crime, the following elements must be shown:
- While you were driving, you willfully attempted to get rid of the officer.
- You kept driving with the intent to evade that officer.
- The officer’s vehicle had at least one red light lit and was visible from the front.
- You saw or should have seen the red light.
- The officer’s siren went off.
- The officer was driving a distinctively marked car.
- The officer was in uniform.
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If a police officer requests that an individual pull over, under no circumstances can they refuse to stop. Even if that person believes the police officer has no reason to pull them over, they must do so on request.
As long as the police officer can establish probable cause of any law, ordinance, or safety code, then the stop is legal. Best practice is for the driver to find a safe place to pull over and have the officer explain why they are stopping them.
Make sure that you give them the basic information they need such as drivers license, proof of insurance, and registration. You may ask to remain silent and talk to your lawyer after that and they cannot question you any further.
Whether refusing to stop is considered a felony, misdemeanor, or a "slap on the wrist" depends largely on the driver’s actions. For example, regardless of whether the driver means to be evasive, leading the police on a high-speed chase will be a felony.
By contrast, simply not noticing the lights of the patrol car in the rearview mirror may elicit a warning from the officer. It is not uncommon for reckless driving and other charges to be brought against drivers who refuse to stop for police officers.
If a driver refuses to stop for a police officer upon request, the officer will most likely assume the driver is in a serious violation of the law. The idea the officer will have is "if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn’t the driver simply stop?"
After all, it is always possible to contest a ticket or an illegal stop after the fact. Refusing to stop will only lead to negative consequences such as:
- Drivers license suspended or restricted;
- Restitution and other fines;
- Parole and Probation;
- Community service;
- Potential jail time; and/or
- Heavy fines of over $1,000.
If you are stopped by a police officer in a marked car for a traffic violation, keep in mind the following tips to increase your chances of avoiding a citation and to make the traffic stop a less stressful experience:
- Slow down and safely pull over as soon as possible, or you may be accused of evading the police officer
- Remain calm
- Turn off the engine
- Keep both hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel
- Do not exit the vehicle unless instructed by the officer to do so
- Be courteous and non-confrontational.
- Comply with the officer’s requests
- Do not volunteer information other than request for drivers license, insurance, and registration.
- Ask for the officer’s name and badge number.
Many police departments use both marked and unmarked patrol cars for conducting traffic stops. In some cases, however, the driver of the unmarked vehicle attempting to pull you over could be someone pretending to be a cop for the purpose of carrying out an illegal activity. Impersonating a police officer is illegal, but it does happen. The best practice to:
- Turn on four-way hazard lights to notify the officer the driver will pull over;
- Call 911 and ask the dispatcher to verify that it is an actual police officer. This may be done by verifying a vehicle description and location;
- With your hazard lights turned on, drive to the nearest well-lit and populated area; and
- If an officer wearing plain clothes operates the unmarked vehicle, request that a uniformed officer respond to the scene.
Police officers need to be respected because of their authoritative status. An experienced criminal defense attorney is knowledgeable of the effective strategies of dismissing evading officer charges. Further, they can help you negotiate a plea bargain to get rid of the charges and enter for a lesser crime that carries a smaller punishment.