Nobody likes to see the red and blue lights in their rearview mirror, but you can make a bad situation even worse if you decide not to pull over for an officer who has directed you to do so. Failing to pull over when directed is considered an attempt to flee or elude police, and depending on the circumstances, it can be a misdemeanor or felony offense. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the crime of fleeing or eluding police in Illinois, and how you can defend yourself against the charges.
Fleeing and Eluding Police In Illinois
The crime of fleeing or eluding police is laid out in 625 ILCS 5/11-204, which states:
“Any driver or operator of a motor vehicle who, having been given a visual or audible signal by a peace officer directing such driver or operator to bring his vehicle to a stop, wilfully fails or refuses to obey such direction, increases his speed, extinguishes his lights, or otherwise flees or attempts to elude the officer, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
Class A misdemeanors carry the possibility of up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500. While it’s unlikely that you’ll see jail time for a first offense, there is one other significant factor at play. Upon conviction, your license will automatically be suspended for six months. This means a dumb decision made in the heat of the moment can make it hard for you to get to work or run errands for half a year. Needless to say, you shouldn’t just plead guilty and hope for the best, because your license will be suspended.
Penalties can also be increased based on certain factors. For example, a second conviction will result in a year suspension of your driver’s license. And if any of the following factors are present, even if it’s your first offense, you can face a felony charge of fleeing or eluding police:
- Speeding 21 mph over the limit while attempting to elude
- Causing bodily injury to any person
- Causing more than $300 worth of property damage
- Disobeying two or more traffic control devices (stop lights, signs, etc.)
- Obscuring or concealing your license plate
If you do any of the above, you’ll face an aggravated charge, which is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in jail and fines up to $25,000. Your license will also be suspended, and subsequent violations would be upgraded to a Class 3 felony, which carries even stiffer penalties.
Fleeing Or Eluding Defenses
The key word in the law is “willfully,” so in order for a conviction to occur, police need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally disobeyed their attempt to stop your vehicle. So if you genuinely didn’t see them in your rearview mirror and you took the next exit because that’s the fastest way to your house, you should be able to get the charges dropped because you didn’t intentionally try to evade.
The same goes for if a police officer sees you committing a traffic violation but has trouble making normal maneuvers to catch up to your vehicle. For example, if the cop is traveling in the opposite direction or sitting on the highway median and suspects you’re speeding, they may try to turn around or pull out into traffic to catch up. If you continue at your normal pace and they don’t catch up to you for three miles because it took them a while to catch up, this isn’t an instance of someone trying to flee. You are not committing an intentional act of trying to flee if you continue driving as you would normally until it is clear that you are the one an officer is trying to stop.
So if you’ve been charged with fleeing or eluding, reach out to Brett and the team at Appelman Law today. We’ve successfully challenged many fleeing and eluding cases, and we know that it’s hard for police to prove your intentions, so don’t just let them bully you into a conviction. Contact a lawyer, put on a strong defense and get those flimsy charges dropped. For more information, or for help with any traffic issues, give us a call today at (630) 717-7801 to set up a free strategy session.