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When is Fleeing and Eluding a Felony?

Dec 01, 2016, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Traffic

Driving away from the police without permission or avoiding a traffic stop is never a good idea. This was a hard-learned lesson for 19-year old Chris Saul who was convicted in August of fleeing and eluding the police. The Michigan teen argued in court that he was confused as to what the police wanted him to do. When he heard sirens and saw lights in his mirror he initially stopped. After the police officer honked, he continued to drive again. Saul was finally stopped by police who surrounded his vehicle with guns drawn. Though Saul has the opportunity to appeal, a conviction for fleeing and eluding the police will give him a criminal record and could lead to years in prison, probation, harsh fines, and a suspension of his driver’s license. Chris Saul’s situation is difficult to imagine; however, it may not be as unique as you think. There are many instances in which you could misinterpret a police officer’s request or believe you are free to go when an officer wanted you to stay put.

With the help of a skilled Detroit traffic lawyer, a simple mistake may not lead to a felony conviction. If you are being charged with fleeing and eluding the police after a misunderstanding, contact Davis Law Group at (313) 818-3238 as soon as possible.

Michigan Law Against Fleeing & Eluding

Under Section 750.479a of the Michigan Penal Code, as a driver you must come to a stop when you are directed to do so by the police either through a hand signal, voice command, siren, emergency lights, or another visual or audible signal by an officer. It is unlawful for you to fail to stop, increase the speed of the car, turn off the vehicle’s lights, or in any way attempt to flee or elude the police.

What Constitutes Fleeing & Eluding?

Fleeing and eluding does not require speeding away from the police and causing a high-speed chase. If you continue to drive at the posted speed limit, even for a short distance, you can be charged with fleeing and eluding. Previously in Michigan, a man who drove slowly for over a mile to find a lit parking lot to stop for the police at 2 a.m. was charged with fleeing and eluding. Upon more scrutiny, the charges were dropped. However, not before prosecutors had attempted to convince the driver to accept a plea deal that would have given him a criminal record and affected his career and educational loans.

Potential Penalties for Fleeing & Eluding

Depending on the exact circumstances, you can be charged with a fourth- through first-degree felony. Fleeing and eluding that does not lead to any accidents, injuries or deaths is charged as a fourth-degree felony, punishable by 2 years in prison, fines, and a license suspension. When fleeing from the police leads to an accident or you have a previous fleeing and eluding charge, you will face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, fines, and a license suspension. If an accident or chase leads to injuries, you may be imprisoned for up to 10 years due to a second-degree felony conviction. Prosecutors will charge you with a first-degree felony if your actions resulted in someone’s death. Upon conviction, you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison along with additional penalties.

How Davis Law Group Can Help

If you have been charged with fleeing and eluding the police, there are many defenses available. Your lawyer may be able to argue that it was not safe for you to immediately stop your vehicle when you noticed the police signal. This may be because of heavy or fast traffic, lack of a shoulder, or the area was not well lit late at night. Additionally, it may be a defense if you truly believed the area was too dangerous to stop in or you believed the signal came from someone impersonating a police officer.

Additionally, it is often possible to have a fleeing and eluding charge reduced to a different misdemeanor crime such as leaving the scene of a crime, failing to stop and provide ID at the scene of a crash or reckless driving. Through a misdemeanor charge, you may be able to fully avoid any jail or prison time and have fewer points added to your driving record.

Call a Michigan Traffic Lawyer Today

Michigan prosecutors and police take fleeing and eluding very seriously, which is why seemingly innocent mistakes and misunderstandings still lead to felony charges. If you are facing this offense, do not give up hope or believe you must sign a plea deal despite being innocent. The experienced traffic lawyer Maurice Davis is ready to take on your case and build you a strong defense.

Contact Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238 or email us to schedule a consultation.