Definition of Fleeing and Eluding

The offense of “Fleeing and Eluding” is defined under Section 316.1935, Florida Statutes. Under the law, it is a criminal act for a driver, having knowledge that he or she has been lawfully ordered to stop his or her vehicle by a law enforcement officer, to willfully to refuse to stop the vehicle in compliance with the officer’s order.

Thus, the general offense of Fleeing and Eluding consists of three primary elements:

  1. The defendant was operating a vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
  2. A duly authorized law enforcement officer ordered the defendant to stop or remain stopped; and
  3. The defendant, knowing that he or she had been directed to stop by the police officer, (a) willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order, or (b) having stopped the vehicle, willfully fled in vehicle in an attempt to elude the officer.

In addition to the general offense described above, Florida law contains multiple Fleeing and Eluding sub-types that are considered aggravated offenses.

The more common examples are shown below:

Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated

The first sub-type of Fleeing and Eluding occurs in the context of a police officer activating his or her lights and sirens. The offense consists of three elements:

  1. The defendant was operating a vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
  2. The defendant, knowing that he or she had been directed to stop by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, (a) willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order, or (b) having stopped the vehicle willfully fled in the vehicle to elude the police officer; and
  3. The law enforcement officer was in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle with agency insignia and with sirens and lights activated.

Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated with High Speed or Reckless Driving

The second sub-type of Fleeing and Eluding occurs where a defendant drives at a high speed or engages in reckless driving after a police officer has activated his or her sirens and lights. The offense consists of four elements:

  1. The defendant was operating a vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
  2. The defendant, knowing that he or she had been directed to stop by a law enforcement officer: (a) willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order, or (b) having stopped the vehicle, willfully fled in a vehicle in an attempt to elude the officer;
  3. The law enforcement officer was in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle with agency insignia and with sirens and lights activated; and
  4. During the course of the fleeing or attempt to elude, the defendant drove at a high speed or in any manner demonstrating a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated with High Speed or Reckless Driving Causing Serious Bodily Injury or Death

This type of Fleeing and Eluding occurs where a defendant drives at a high rate of speed or with recklessness and, as a result, causes death or serious bodily injury to another person or to the pursuing officer.  The offense consists of five elements:

  1. The defendant was operating a vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
  2. The defendant, knowing that he or she had been directed to stop by a law enforcement officer: (a) willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order, or (b) having stopped the vehicle, willfully fled in a vehicle in an attempt to elude the officer;
  3. The law enforcement officer was in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle with agency insignia and with sirens and lights activated; and
  4. During the course of the fleeing or attempt to elude, the defendant drove at a high speed or in any manner demonstrating a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; and
  5. As a result of fleeing or eluding at a high speed or wanton disregard for safety, the defendant causes the death of or serious bodily injury to another person or to the law enforcement officer involved in the pursuit.

Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding

The penalties for Fleeing and Eluding a Law Enforcement / Police Officer in Florida are severe, and jail or prison is a significant possibility even for first-time offenders.

  • General Fleeing and Eluding (No Aggravating Circumstances)- the offense is classified as a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. A conviction will also result in a mandatory driver’s license revocation, which will range from 1 to 5 years in duration;
  • Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated- third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, as well as a $5,000 fine and a mandatory driver’s license revocation ranging from 1 to 5 years;
  • Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated with High Speed or Reckless Driving- second degree felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison or 15 years of probation, as well as a $10,000 fine and a mandatory driver’s license revocation ranging from 1 to 5 years;
  • Fleeing and Eluding: Sirens and Lights Activated with High Speed or Reckless Driving Causing Serious Bodily Injury or Death- first degree felony, with penalties of up to 30 years in prison or 30 years of probation, as well as a $10,000 fine and mandatory license revocation ranging from 1 to 5 years. Upon conviction, a court is required to sentence a defendant to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years.

Defenses to Fleeing and Eluding

There are many defenses available to contest a charge of Fleeing and Eluding in Florida. Common defenses may include the following:

  • Was the alleged “fleeing to elude” willful, or were there extenuating circumstances or a necessity for not stopping?
  • Was the accused aware that the attempted stop was by an actual law enforcement officer?
  • Was the alleged order to stop sufficiently communicated to the accused?
  • If charged with Fleeing and Eluding with Sirens and Lights Activated, was the 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?

Contact an Attorney

Fleeing and Eluding is a serious criminal charge in Florida. If you have been arrested for such an offense in Jacksonville, Duval County, Clay County, or Nassau County, Florida, you may have defenses to fight the charge or to minimize potential penalties. Contact Hussein & Webber, PL today for a free consultation.