The police in Destin expect you to pull over right away when they get behind you and turn the lights on. If you don’t, or if they think you were trying to run from them, the situation can escalate very quickly. The most likely charge is felony Fleeing or Eluding Law Enforcement.
It is perfectly normal to be stressed and worried about how this charge is going to affect you and your future. Here is a piece of advice to keep in mind:
Fleeing or Eluding Law Enforcement is NOT just a traffic case. It is a potentially life-changing felony charge. It is important that you hire a local criminal defense attorney with experience in defending felonies. The last thing you need is a “traffic attorney.”
My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been practicing criminal defense in Destin and Okaloosa County since 2001. In fact, criminal defense is the only type of law I have ever practiced.
I started Flaherty & Merrifield to help people. My partner, Brandy Merrifield, has worked with me since 2007. To see what we can do for you, give our Destin fleeing and eluding law enforcement lawyers a call at (850) 460-7470.
What does it take to be convicted of Fleeing or Eluding in Destin?
Fleeing or Eluding is defined in Florida Statute 316.1935. The statute lays out the elements that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. They are as follows:
- You were the operator of a vehicle;
- You knew that you were being ordered to stop your vehicle by law enforcement; and
- You willfully refused or failed to stop your vehicle.
Will the State always charge Fleeing or Eluding as a Felony in Destin?
Yes. There used to be a misdemeanor level of Fleeing or Eluding for slow speed fleeing. Today, all levels are a felony. The following is a summary of the 3 levels of Fleeing or Eluding:
Fleeing or Eluding
Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a police officer in a clearly marked patrol vehicle, with lights and siren activated, is a 3rd degree felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years incarceration.
Aggravated Fleeing or Attempting to Elude
If you speed while attempting to flee from the police, or if the State can prove that you drove with a wanton disregard for the safety of others, you could face the 2nd degree felony charge of Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding. This charge carries a possible prison sentence of 15 years in prison. In order for the State to prove the element of wanton disregard, they will have to prove that you drove with “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 anyone was seriously hurt, or killed, during an Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding in Destin, the State can seek up to 30 years in prison. There is also a 3 year mandatory prison sentence if you are convicted.
Can I get a diversion program for Fleeing or Eluding in Destin?
No. Pretrial Diversion is NOT available for Fleeing or Eluding. This rule is found in Florida Statute 316.1935(6). The statute says that the court may not “suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any violation of this section.”
Let’s break down what that means.
The statute states that the court cannot “defer” sentence. That is what pretrial diversion is; a deferral. In pretrial diversion cases, sentence is deferred to give the offender an opportunity to complete the conditions of the program. If the conditions are completed, the State dismisses the case. The statute specifically prohibits this option in Fleeing or Eluding cases.
As for withholding adjudication, that is also not allowed. A withhold of adjudication is a sentencing option that allows the judge to sentence you without a formal conviction. Certain cases, such as DUI and Fleeing or Eluding, are not eligible for a withhold of adjudication. This is significant in Fleeing or Eluding cases due to the fact that the charge is a felony. Unless the charge is reduced, or dismissed, or you win the case at trial, you will be a convicted felon if you are convicted of Fleeing or Eluding.
What defense options are there for Fleeing or Eluding charges in Destin?
With options such as pretrial diversion and withholding adjudication off the table, it becomes even more important to have a well-executed defense strategy to achieve the best result possible.
Our main goals will be to keep you out of jail or prison, and to avoid a felony conviction.
Here are a few areas to explore:
- We will start getting ready for trial right away. It is important that the State knows you will be fighting until the end for a resolution that accomplishes our goals of no jail or prison, and no felony conviction.
- We will take the deposition of the arresting police officer and any other officers who were on-scene. We have a few reasons for doing this: (1) The officer will be forced to testify under oath, under penalty of perjury. If he testifies one way at the deposition, and then another way at the trial, we will impeach his credibility. (2) At the deposition, we will be trying to develop legal arguments that could lead to the filing of a Motion to Suppress or a Motion to Dismiss. This could lead to the charges being dismissed. (3) Depending on the circumstances, whether you were cooperative and polite, and whether you have a prior record, we will ask the officer, on the record, if he would raise an objection if we negotiated with the prosecutor for a plea to a lesser charge.
- The State has to prove that you were aware that the police were behind you, trying to pull you over. If we can raise a doubt about that, it could lead to a dismissal, or an offer to plea to a reduced charge.
No matter what plea offer is made by the State, it will always be your decision whether to accept it or go to trial. Our job is to gather the best possible options for you, explain the pros and cons of each option, and then let you decide what course of action you’d like to take.
Either way, Flaherty & Merrifield will be with you, every step of the way.
Contact a Destin Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement in Destin, Florida, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.