Fleeing from Police during a Traffic Stop or DUI Investigation can result in a Felony Charge.
After being pulled over by police, a person may be tempted to flee or evade police in an attempt avoid criminal charges. Often this happens when:
- The person has been driving under the influence (DUI),
- Possess outstanding warrants,
- Or possess contraband in their vehicle.
However, the likelihood of a successful escape is minimal, and fleeing adds another felony criminal charge, a class 5 felony for Unlawful Flight. This charge will be in addition to the any other charges, like misdemeanor DUI. It also creates complication for your defense because one can argue an inference of guilty conscious.
Unlawful Flight in Arizona
Arizona’s Unlawful Flight statute, A.R.S. 28-622.01 (https://www.azleg.gov/ars/28/00622-01.htm), states that: A driver of a motor vehicle who willfully flees or attempts to elude a pursuing official law enforcement vehicle is guilty of a class 5 felony if the law enforcement vehicle is either:
- Being operated in the manner described in section 28-624, subsection C; and is appropriately marked to show that it is an official law enforcement vehicle.
- Unmarked and either of the following applies:
(a) The driver admits to knowing that the vehicle was an official law enforcement vehicle.
(b) Evidence shows that the driver knew that the vehicle was an official law enforcement vehicle.
Often, police issue an Unlawful Flight in connection with a Phoenix DUI charge and any other related charges such as reckless driving or speeding.
Lights and Sirens Not Necessary
What may come as a surprise is that the use of emergency lights and/or a siren by the police vehicle is not required and is not a necessary element of an Unlawful Flight charge. However, a jury will be instructed it may consider the absence of lights and sirens in its determination whether the defendant acted willfully, or in other words intentionally fled or eluded law enforcement.
Punishments for Unlawful Flight
Unlawful Flight is a class 5 felony, which carries the following possible penalties:
- Minimum prison sentence of 6 months
- Presumptive prison sentence of 1.5 years
- Aggravated prison sentence of is 2.5 years
- Probation may be available
- One year suspension of driver’s license
- Court fines and fees
Unlawful Flight and DUI
A traffic stop for DUI may lead to many related charges including:
- Unlawful Flight,
- Driving on a suspended license,or
- Possession of illegal drugs.
The Phoenix DUI lawyers with the Lerner and Rowe Law Group can help you with all manner of criminal charges in any court across the state. Our experienced DUI lawyers understand the relationship between DUI and related vehicular charges, and the impact they can have on your driver’s license.
Possible Legal Defenses to Unlawful Flight
There are several defenses for fleeing from law enforcement. One defense is to prove that you did not willfully flee or attempt to evade pursuing law enforcement because you were not aware of the police vehicle’s presence. A criminal lawyer can use this to argue that it doesn’t meet the “willful” element of the charge.
“Mistake of fact” is another defense that a criminal lawyer can present. This defense can be used when a motorist believes the pursuing officer was after someone else and therefore did not yield.
Another defense is that the pursued driver saw the police vehicle and was not fleeing but was looking for a safe place to pull over and stop.
Poor visibility or loud ambient noise may be another defense. If the pursuit happens:
- At night,
- During a storm,
- Or in high traffic areas, a criminal defense attorney can argue the motorist had no reason to know or was unaware that a police vehicle was in pursuit.
There may be other defenses a criminal attorney can present depending on the specific facts of the case. For example, whether the officers violated a suspect’s constitutional rights, if there was probable cause to support an investigatory stop, or if the officers violated a person’s Miranda rights or right to remain silent.
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
When your freedom is on the line it’s crucial that you have representation from a criminal defense lawyer who understands the nuanced nature of an Unlawful Flight charge and how best to prepare a defense for the specific facts of your case. Additionally, the criminal attorney you choose should believe in you and your case. They should also be ready to stand by your side through this difficult and stressful process.
Contact the Lerner and Rowe Law Group today to schedule your free consultation to find out how a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can help get your charges dismissed or reduced. We commit to answering your calls 24/7. Give us a call at 602-667-7777 or fill out the online case evaluation form.
The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.