Recently, Pennsylvania State Police announced they have found the vehicle an 18-year-old allegedly used to hit a trooper in Lancaster County days before. The police stopped the vehicle for a traffic infraction and the passenger inside the vehicle moved into the driver’s seat and fled the scene. The suspect is still at large and there is a reward for anyone that can provide details that will lead to his arrest.
The story made news in Lancaster County when it first occurred because fleeing a police officer is a fairly dramatic event. However, many times a police officer will misconstrue the actions of an individual and charge them with fleeing or eluding a police officer when that was not their intention. Fortunately in these situations, there are defenses available.
What Does It Mean to Flee a Police Officer?
The offense of fleeing a police officer occurs when a law enforcement officer tries to pull someone over for a traffic stop. If you do not bring your vehicle to a full stop after a law enforcement officer instructs you to, you may face second degree misdemeanor charges. If convicted, you will face up to two years in prison. Depending on the circumstances, those charges may also be upgraded.
If you did not bring your vehicle to a complete stop, and also crossed state lines, were driving under the influence, or you endangered the safety of the general public, you will face third degree felony charges. If convicted, you face a maximum of seven years in prison.
Defenses to Fleeing a Police Officer
In many cases, law enforcement misunderstands the actions of a driver they are trying to pull over, and that results in a charge of fleeing a police officer. It is essential that you hire a criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged. A lawyer will likely try to prove that you did not stop in a certain amount of time because you were worried for your safety. To prove these aspects of your case, your lawyer may use the following arguments:
- The location was unsafe: If you are in an area of town that is notoriously unsafe, it is not unreasonable to expect law enforcement to allow you to drive another block or two. Also, if a police officer tries to stop you at night, you should also wait until you are in a well-lit area before you pull over.
- You stopped at the first populated or well-lit area: If you did stop at the first well-populated or well-lit area, it can show that you did feel unsafe and you stopped as soon as you felt more comfortable.
- Your actions before stopping showed no signs of fleeing: It is much easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction if someone speeds away from a police officer and takes several detours in order to ‘lose them.’ On the other hand, if you slowed down or turned on your hazard lights, it is an indication that you were not trying to flee the police.
After reviewing the facts of your case, a criminal defense lawyer can advise on which strategy is best for you.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Today
If you have been charged with fleeing a police officer, do not wait to call our Allentown criminal defense lawyers. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, we know not everyone charged with a crime is guilty, and we will work hard to help you beat your charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online so we can get started on your case.