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What is Evading the Police?

Chloe Meltzer | October 19, 2022

Legal Expert
Chloe Meltzer, MA

Chloe Meltzer is an experienced content writer specializing in legal content creation. She holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, complemented by a Master’s in Marketing from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: Here's SoloSuit's guide on everything you should know about what it means to evade the police.

Evading the police involves running, driving, or leaving a police officer when you have committed some type of criminal offense. This could be a driver who flees after they are stopped by a police officer, or running after committing a crime. It can also be avoiding the police when there is a warrant out for arrest. However, it is always an intentional fleeing of the scene after being ordered to stop or stay.

Evading a police officer

The laws involving eluding a police officer differ based on the state you are arrested in. Generally speaking, it is when a driver intentionally disobeys a law enforcement officer's command to stop. This might include leaving the scene after an officer attempts to stop you, stopping after being asked and then driving off, or driving for a long period of time before pulling over. Although often referred to when driving, it is also possible to evade an officer without being in a vehicle. This is still very much a crime.

Knowledge is defined

Fleeing from an officer is not always a crime if you are not aware you should be stopping. For example, if you are simply driving and happen to make a mistake, but you do not see the police lights, then you are not yet fleeing. You will only be evading police once the officer has issued a command to stop. If you continue to ignore them, then it becomes a crime. But what does a command look like? Let us explain.

There are many legal forms of command

In most states, the method in which a police officer tells you to stop does not need to be done orally. This means an officer can order a stop by using their hands or showing their badge. Flashing lights or a siren is considered a command as well. Typically though, an officer needs to be easily identifiable as an officer with a uniform, badge, or marked car.

Passengers can be considered evaders

In some situations, courts have held passengers responsible for evading. This can be difficult to prove, because you may have simply been a passenger in a car who decided to evade the police. This means that if you push a driver to continue, you may be charged with a guilty verdict of evading. Without proof, if the driver of the car states that you pushed them to continue, it will be their word against yours.

Penalties for evading the police

Penalties for eluding or evading a police officer are different in every state. For example, in Virginia, it can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony because it varies based on the severity of evasion. Usually, a felony will be charged for a few reasons if it:

  • Interferes with the operation of the officer's vehicle
  • Endangers another person or officer
  • Kills the officer while the fleeing occurs

However, in some states, such as Michigan, evading a police officer is always charged as a felony. You should research the laws on evading the police in your state to understand the specific charges that come with it.

Proving you evaded police

When you are involved in an incident for evading the police, it is important to understand that to be prosecuted, the police must prove it was intentional. This means that evidence must suggest it was done completely intentionally. If the evidence suggests that you did not see the officer, or could not hear the order, you may be able to have the case dismissed.

In general, there are two main elements required to prove an evading case:

  1. The defendant acted intentionally: If you are being charged in an evasion case, then there must be proof that you acted intentionally. This might include proof that you saw the officer and continued, or purposefully ran away.
  2. The officer’s order to stop was clear: This can be confusing because the order to stop does not have to be verbal. However, the courts do consider hand gestures to be enough to be considered an order. It is also good to note that simply displaying a badge can be enough as well. If the officer was not on duty, then this may be a good defense to an evasion case.

What to do if you have been charged with evading the police

If you have been charged with a traffic violation for evading the police, but feel you have a valid reason for doing so, you will need to bring up one of the following defenses. For example:

  • It was not your intention to run: In order to be convicted of evading the police, the opposition must prove you purposely tried to escape the police. Your attorney may be able to show that you never had the intention to do so. This might be by showcasing the cars were not marked as police, or that they were not in uniform.
  • There was no right to arrest or pull you over: The police cannot simply pull you over for whatever reason they want to. If you can prove there was no legal reason to pull you over, then you may have a case against evasion.
  • There was an emergency: If you were rushing to the ER or another emergency, you may be able to avoid conviction. However, you will need proof of this in some form.

Understand the severity

Evading the police is a serious violation of the law, therefore it is important to avoid it at all costs. Although it may have been by accident, or due to an emergency, it is essential you then fight the case in court with a proper defense.

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