Getting into a car chase with the police is never a good idea. You could injure yourself or someone else if you get into a crash at high speeds. Additionally, you could face criminal charges — and Michigan law provides for severe penalties for fleeing and eluding a police officer.
Car chases happen so often in Michigan that the authorities only keep statistics of the chases that result in crashes. While the data shows that the number of crashes resulting from chases has decreased, the number of deaths has increased significantly. In 2014, for example, 27 people died during 23 police chases, making it the deadliest year in a decade. In 2013, there were 16 deaths in police chases.
If you’re facing charges for fleeing and eluding, the skilled Michigan criminal lawyers at Davis Law Group can help you fight the charge and get it dismissed or reduced.
Penalties in the Michigan Vehicle Code
Section 257.602a of the Michigan Vehicle Code defines the crime of fleeing and eluding a police officer and provides for four levels of punishment.
This law prohibits drivers from:
- Willfully increasing speed
- Extinguishing the car’s lights
- Otherwise attempting to flee or elude an officer
For purposes of the statute, an “officer” includes uniformed police or a Department of Natural Resources officer in a marked car who has given a hand, voice, emergency light, or siren signal.
With no aggravating factors, the driver may be guilty of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by up to 2 years of imprisonment or a fine of not more than $500, or both.
If the violation results in a crash, or a portion of the chase occurs in a 35 mile per hour speed zone, or the driver has a prior conviction of fourth-degree fleeing or attempted fleeing, the driver may be guilty of third-degree fleeing and eluding. The penalty for this felony can reach up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000.
If the fleeing driver causes serious injuries to an individual, or has a prior conviction of first, second, or third-degree fleeing and eluding, or has two or more convictions for fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, the driver may be charged with second-degree fleeing and eluding. In this case, the penalty can be as high as 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000.
When a death results from the chase, the fleeing driver may be guilty of first-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
First and second-degree fleeing and eluding convictions will result in a driver’s license revocation, while third and fourth-degree fleeing and eluding convictions result in a license suspension.
Penalties in the Michigan Penal Code
Section 750.479a of the Michigan Penal Code, also known as the “Lieutenant Donald Bezenah law,” prohibits fleeing and eluding in language almost identical to that of the vehicle code. However, the penalties are harsher.
This law makes it illegal for operators of both land and water vehicles to willfully increase speed, extinguish the lights, or otherwise attempting to flee or elude a uniformed police or department of natural resources officer in a marked car or boat who has given a hand, voice, emergency light, or siren signal.
Absent any aggravating factors, the driver may be charged with fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by 2 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000.
Third-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony involving a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, applies when:
- The violation results in a collision or accident, or
- For motor vehicles, a portion of the violation occurred in an area where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less, or for a boat when a portion of the violation occurred in an area designated as “slow—–no wake”, “no wake”, or “restricted,” or
- The suspect has a prior conviction for fourth-degree fleeing and eluding or attempted fourth-degree fleeing and eluding
Second-degree fleeing and eluding, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000, applies when:
- The violation results in a serious injury
- The suspect has a prior conviction for first, second, or third-degree fleeing and eluding, or attempted first, second, or third-degree fleeing and eluding
- The individual has two prior convictions for fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, or attempted fourth-degree fleeing and eluding
When the suspect’s flight results in a death, first-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years and/or a fine of $15,000 will apply.
As with the vehicle code version of this crime, violations of first and second-degree fleeing and eluding will result in a revocation of your driver’s license, while violations of third and fourth-degree result in a license suspension
The Difference Between the Statutes
You must be wondering why Michigan has kept two versions of the same statute on the books, each with slightly different penalties. This is because the two versions of fleeing and eluding give more options to prosecutors.
While the penal code version of fleeing and eluding gives prosecutors the ability to convince judges or juries to impose harsher sentences, the defendant has the ability to plead guilty to attempted fleeing and eluding, for which he or she might obtain a lighter sentence.
On the other hand, the vehicle code offers more lenient penalties, but the defendant cannot plead guilty to attempted fleeing and eluding and get a lighter sentence.
This is because the section 257.204b(2) of the Vehicle Code states: “the court shall impose a criminal penalty for a conviction of an attempted violation of this act . . .in the same manner as if the offense had been completed.”
Thus, when charging under the vehicle code version of the law, prosecutors have a better chance of securing jail time for the defendant.
How Our Michigan Criminal Lawyers Can Help
Whether you’re facing charges brought under the vehicle code or the penal code, a qualified Michigan criminal defense attorney working by your side can make a world of difference.
Call the Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.