If a sheriff’s deputy in Okaloosa County turns on the lights and wants you to pull over, they expect you to comply right away. If you don’t pull over fast enough for them, or if they think you were trying to run, you face the felony charge of Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement.
We’ve heard a lot of reasons from clients over the years about why they didn’t pull over but the most common ones are:
- Didn’t notice the lights or siren because they were distracted
- They had been drinking and were scared of getting a DUI
- There were illegal narcotics or something else illegal in the car
- The person has outstanding warrants and didn’t want to get taken to jail
If you are thinking about what you should do now to protect yourself, please consider this: there is a big difference between traffic lawyers and felony lawyers. Call a traffic lawyer if you got a speeding ticket. Call a felony traffic offense lawyer if staying out of prison and keeping a felony off your record is your goal. Our Okaloosa County fleeing and eluding lawyers are here for you. Call (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.
What is the legal definition of Fleeing or Eluding In Okaloosa County?
Fleeing or Attempting to Elude is defined in Florida Statute 316.1935 as:
“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.”
All Fleeing or Eluding charges are felony offenses but there are different levels:
Fleeing or Eluding
Fleeing or Eluding a law enforcement officer who is in an authorized, clearly marked patrol vehicle, with lights and siren activated. This is a third degree felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding
If the driver flees or eludes law enforcement and in the process drives at a high rate of speed, or in a manner that demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property, the Fleeing or Eluding charge in Okaloosa County will be a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding with Injury or Death
If the person drives at a high rate of speed, or in a manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of people or property, and causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, the Fleeing or Eluding charge in Okaloosa County will be a first degree felony with a potential sentence of 30 years in prison. There is also a mandatory sentence of at least three years if you’re convicted.
Other than possible jail time, what else am I facing for a Fleeing or Eluding charge in Okaloosa County?
If you are convicted of Fleeing or Eluding your driver’s license will be suspended for 5 years.
Something else to keep in mind: Florida law clearly states that the court may not “suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any violation of this section.”
That means that the judge must order that a felony conviction go on your record if you aren’t successful in getting the charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge.
It also means that Pretrial Diversion is NOT an option, and neither is a withhold of adjudication.
If you are in the military and you get convicted of Fleeing or Eluding, your career is likely over. You will be separated from the military with a felony conviction.
How can an attorney defend me against a Fleeing or Eluding Charge in Okaloosa County?
Creativity is what is required. The normal options of withholding adjudication or pretrial diversion are off the table.
When we meet, we will talk about your goals, and what we can realistically achieve. Obviously, our two main goals will be to keep you out of jail, and keep a felony off your record.
Every case is different, but here are a few things we will look at:
- We will start preparing the case for trial right away because the State needs to know that we aren’t just going to roll over and take the first deal.
- We will subpoena the police officers and question them under oath. There are 3 reasons for doing this: (1) prepare us for trial, (2) Develop the legal basis to file a Motion in court to dismiss the case, and (3) try to get the arresting officer to agree to a lesser charge.
- If the officer agrees to a plea to a lesser charge, it is more likely that the prosecutor will agree to it. It is even possible to get the charge reduced to something that allows Pretrial Diversion.
- We will investigate whether it is possible to argue that your failure to pull over was not “willful” since that is an element of the offense that the State must prove. If you didn’t know they were trying to pull you over, your failure to do so wasn’t willful.
- Likewise, we will investigate whether the State can prove that you acted with a wanton disregard for the safety of others.
Call an Okaloosa County Fleeing or Eluding Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.