Is Eluding a Police Officer a Felony?
Attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, also known as “felony flight,” is a felony in Washington State.
Any driver of a motor vehicle who willfully fails or refuses to immediately bring his or her vehicle to a stop and who drives his or her vehicle in a reckless manner while attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, after being given a visual or audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop, shall be guilty of a class C felony.
Attempting To Elude: How can a driver be sure that a pursuing vehicle, or its driver, is indeed law enforcement?
The definition of the crime includes specific conditions that the police officer must satisfy in identifying him or herself and in signaling a vehicle to stop:
The signal given by the police officer may be by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren. The officer giving such a signal shall be in uniform and the vehicle shall be equipped with lights and sirens. The officer need not give the signal from the pursuing police vehicle, but may give a signal from the roadside.
It is an affirmative defense to this section which must be established by a preponderance of the evidence that: (a) A reasonable person would not believe that the signal to stop was given by a police officer; and (b) driving after the signal to stop was reasonable under the circumstances.
What does it mean to attempt to elude a police vehicle?
Washington courts have stated that the criminal offense bans willfully failing to immediately stop in response to the signal to do so by law
enforcement and driving in a reckless manner in an attempt to elude law enforcement. “Reckless manner” means a rash or heedless manner, with indifference to the consequences.
Consequences and Penalties
Like any felony offense in Washington, attempt to elude carries the potential for extremely serious consequences. A felony conviction threatens the possibility of disenfranchisement, loss of firearm rights, and mandatory DNA sampling. Attempting to elude, as a class C felony, carries a maximum sentence of:
- Five years in prison
- Maximum $10,000 fine.
The presumptive range will vary depending on an individual’s criminal history.
For a driver with no criminal history at all, the presumptive sentence range is:
- 0-60 days in custody.
A 12-month presumptive sentence enhancement is available if the prosecutor can prove that:
- the driving resulted in threat of physical injury or harm to one or more persons other than the defendant or the pursuing law enforcement officer.
Conviction for this offense will also result in a one-year license revocation by the Department of Licensing. Drivers revoked as a result of conviction for the charge of attempting to elude are eligible to apply for a restricted license from DOL, the occupational restricted license, which allows drivers to commute to work or school during periods of license suspension.
Defending a complex felony traffic charge like attempting to elude requires the kind of creativity and dedication that our firm is known for. Contact us today to see how we can help.
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