When the Crestview police or the Okaloosa County Sheriff “blue-lights” your car, they expect you to pull over as soon as you can safely do so. If you don’t pull over fast enough for their liking, or if they claim that you were trying to flee from them, you will be charged with the felony offense of Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement.
We understand that you are probably worried and scared about what is going to happen. As you’re considering your options, let me offer a very valuable piece of advice:
Do not trust your defense to a “traffic” attorney. You are facing a very serious felony offense. You need attorneys with extensive experience defending serious felony cases.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a criminal defense attorney here in Crestview and Okaloosa County since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. Criminal Defense has always been our only area of practice. We would be glad to help you, so give us a call at (850) 398-8098.
What does the State have to prove to convict me of Fleeing or Eluding Law Enforcement in Crestview?
Florida Statute 316.1935 lists the elements of Fleeing or Eluding as follows:
“It is unlawful for the operator of any vehicle, having knowledge that he or she has been ordered to stop such vehicle by law enforcement, willfully to refuse or fail to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order.”
For all levels of Fleeing or Eluding, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 5 years.
Is Fleeing or Eluding Law Enforcement always charged as a Felony in Crestview?
Yes, it is always charged as a felony; however, there are 3 levels of Fleeing or Eluding:
Fleeing or Eluding
Fleeing or Eluding a police officer in a clearly marked patrol vehicle, with lights and siren activated. This level of Fleeing or Eluding is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding
If the allegation is that you drove at a high rate of speed, or with a wanton disregard for the safety of others, Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Wanton disregard is defined as “a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to person or property.”
Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding with Injury or Death
If you are accused of driving at a high rate of speed, or with a wanton disregard for the safety of others, and someone was seriously injured or killed, the likely charge is Fleeing or Eluding with Injury or Death. In Crestview and throughout the State of Florida, if some was injured or killed as a result of your fleeing from the police, the State will be seeking up to the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. If you are convicted, the Judge will be required to impose a minimum mandatory sentence of 3 years in prison.
Is Fleeing or Eluding eligible for Pre-Trial Diversion?
Florida Statute 316.1935(6) states that the court may not “suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any violation of this section.”
What does this mean?
Pretrial-Diversion is a deferred sentencing agreement. Since the statute prohibits this, the State is not allowed to offer you pre-trial diversion.
The Judge is not allowed to withhold adjudication. If you enter a plea, or if you are found guilty, the Judge will be required by law to impose a lifetime felony conviction. The only ways around this are to negotiate a plea to a reduced charge, file a Motion to Dismiss, or go to trial and secure a not guilty verdict.
This comes as quite a shock to people, especially our military clients. A felony conviction changes your life forever. If you’re in the military, you will be separated from the Air Force or Army with a felony conviction.
How can an attorney defend me against a Fleeing or Eluding Charge in Crestview?
Since options such as pre-trial diversion are not available, it is important that your attorney have the experience and the creativity to build a defense plan that accomplishes the main goals of keeping you out of prison and keeping you from becoming a convicted felon.
The following lists just a couple areas we will explore:
- From day one, we will prepare for trial because the State needs to know that you aren’t going to just take the first plea deal they offer you, which will most likely include a felony conviction and a jail sentence.
- We will schedule depositions of all the police officers involved in the case. We do this for 3 reasons: (1) lock the officer into his story in case we go to trial. If he changes his testimony at trial, he can be impeached. (2) determine if we have the legal justification to file a Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Suppress that could lead to the dismissal of all charges, and (3) try to get the arresting officer to agree to a lesser charge.
- If we can get the officer to state on the record that he wouldn’t object to a lesser sentence, the State Attorney is more likely to agree to it. A reduced charge could mean a plea to a misdemeanor, or it could mean a reduction to a charge that qualifies for Pretrial Diversion.
- Can the State prove that you knew the police were trying to pull you over? They must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you “willfully” failed to pull over. If the facts of the case do not support this, we can file a Motion to Dismiss.
Contact a Crestview Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been accused of fleeing or eluding charges in Crestview, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 398-8098 for a free consultation.
Click here to learn more about our Crestview felony traffic offense practice.