Whether you are driving in the bustling city of Phoenix or spending time in another community in the state of Arizona, according to A.R.S. § 28-622.01, Unlawful Flight from Pursuing Law Enforcement Vehicle is classified as a felony offense. This charge can be applied any time a person purposely chooses to flee or attempt to evade a law enforcement vehicle that is in pursuit while driving with at least one of its lights on or that has the siren activated. This means that any time a police officer, DPS officer, or Sheriff’s Deputy signals to your vehicle using their lights or sirens, that you must pull over immediately or risk being charged with a felony crime.
Those who choose to ignore this statute and subsequently become involved in an accident that causes someone to die can also face additional charges, even if they were merely fleeing a possible misdemeanor traffic ticket. A capital first-degree murder charge, which carries the death penalty, can be applied if someone is responsible for the death of someone else during unlawful flight from police. If a person is fortunate to avoid this scenario, then they will likely still be facing a class five felony charge.
Potential Penalties for Those Charged with Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement
For those who are facing a first-offense class five felony, there are several possible punishments. These include:
- Probation with zero days jail-time, or up to one year in jail
- Six-months to two years prison-time
Those who have one conviction on their record will then be facing prison-only penalties that include a minimum of one to three and one-quarter years as a sentence. If a person has two or more incidents on their record for unlawful flight from police, then they could be facing up to seven years of prison-time for their decision to flee a pursuing law enforcement vehicle.
Potential Defenses Used Against Unlawful Flight Charges
When a person is facing unlawful flight charges, they have several options from which to choose to attempt to have the charges dropped or the penalties reduced. For most, an effective defense strategy will include proving the defendant’s lack of awareness that a law enforcement vehicle was in pursuit. Due to the use of the term “willful” in this statute, the charges can be dropped if it is successfully demonstrated that a defendant did not purposely evade a pursing law enforcement officer. There are many reasons that can be used in this defense. For example, a driver who had their stereo turned up or who was driving through a noisy construction zone may not have been able to hear the sirens of a pursuing vehicle.
In addition to disproving willful intent to avoid being pulled-over, an attorney can use another strategy known as the “fact defense”. With this defense strategy, a defendant can prove that they thought the pursuing vehicle was after someone else. Using this defense, a defendant can also explain that they were exercising their right to pull over in a safe and well-lit location. This is a common situation that arises frequently with freeway traffic violations.
Often, a driver will prefer to exit the freeway and select a safer parking area during a moving violation stop. This can sometimes anger a law enforcement officer and cause them to add on the unlawful flight charge to a simple misdemeanor traffic ticket. For this reason, it is always essential for you to take note of the circumstances surrounding any traffic stop that you are involved in that might be used in your defense. Sometimes, witnesses or data from the law enforcement officer’s “black box recorder” can be used to prove your defense when using this strategy.
In addition to these strategies, an attorney who is experienced in defending their client’s Constitutional rights can also have charges revoked if these rights were not upheld at any time during the traffic stop or arrest. For example, every person accused of a crime in the United States has the right to avoid self-incrimination that is protected by the option to seek legal counsel before answering questions.
Once you have been charged with unlawful flight from police, you will need a competent lawyer that has experience handling these types of cases. David Michael Cantor is experienced in handling Arizona felonies and is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist registered with the Arizona Legal Board of Specialization. Additionally, most of the attorneys in our law offices are ex-prosecutors that have a full-understanding of how these cases are charged and tried in the courts.
To avoid the harsh penalties associated with unlawful flight from police, call us 24 hours a day at 602-737-2812 or fill out our online form for a free initial consultation.