According to A.R.S. 28-622.01, it’s illegal to attempt to elude or willfully flee from a law enforcement vehicle that’s signaling you to pull over. To qualify as unlawful flight, the vehicle must be properly marked as law enforcement and displaying its lights when you fail to stop. It’s unlikely that people who attempt to evade police are actually successful, and the crime comes with serious consequences.
If you’re found guilty of this offense, you’ll likely receive a class 5 felony charge, which permanently impacts your criminal record. State law says that you’ve committed unlawful flight when you’ve willfully fled an officer, meaning you must have known you were being signaled to stop and chose not to anyway. If you’ve been accused of unlawful flight in Arizona, it’s crucial that you talk to a criminal defense attorney sooner rather than later.
Unlawful Flight in Arizona: What You Should Know
- Unlawful flight puts other drivers at risk and is taken very seriously
- An officer has the right to arrest you, even if you didn’t mean to evade them
- Many times, people receive this charge due to a simple misunderstanding
- If you receive a citation from an officer, you should never argue with them
- An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you increase your chances of a reduced or dismissed charge
When a law enforcement official signals for a driver to pull over, the driver is allowed to wait a reasonable amount of time until they’re able to safely stop. If there are circumstances, such as a lack of shoulders available to pull over on, you have a right to continue driving until you reach an appropriate location.
Evading or failing to stop for police is a serious crime because it increases the risk of physical harm to other drivers on the road. There are several circumstances that could cause you to accidentally receive this charge, including loud music in your car or simply not noticing the patrol vehicle in time.
Penalties for Felony Flight
The crime of unlawful flight is a class 5 felony offense, which will come with more serious penalties if you have previous convictions. A class 5 felony carries the potential for fines as high as $150,000 and up to 2 years behind bars. With other criminal incidents in your history, you might be looking at 6 years of incarceration due to the repeat offender laws in Arizona.
Not only does a felony charge impact employment and housing opportunities, but your car insurance rates may increase. Felony charges aren’t taken lightly, so it’s important to be strategic in the face of this charge.
Possible Defenses for Unlawful Flight
The most common defense for this crime is a lack of knowledge that a law enforcement official was behind you. As mentioned, you must have willfully fled in order to be guilty of unlawful flight. If you’re lucky, the cop will be willing to let you off with a warning. But keep in mind that a police officer has probable cause to arrest you if you don’t stop after they’ve signaled you to, whether or not you knew they were behind you.
If this happens to you, it’s best to cooperate with the officer and accept their charges, then seek legal representation later. Once you’ve chosen an attorney to work with, they can assist you in challenging the charges.
Frequently Asked Questions on Felony Flight
Below are some common questions people may have about unlawful flight charges in Arizona:
Q: Do the police have probable cause to arrest me for a traffic violation?
A: No, non-criminal offenses (such as running a stop sign) are classed as civil offenses. This means that you wouldn’t face criminal penalties or be subject to arrest for this type of traffic violation. If, however, you failed to stop after being signaled due to running the sign, the police would have probable cause to arrest you.
Q: How can the prosecution prove that I failed to stop for a police vehicle?
A: You must have known that a police vehicle was signaling for you to stop to receive a conviction for unlawful flight. So, in order to be found guilty, the state has to show that you willfully evaded or attempted to escape from law enforcement. The prosecution has to prove that the police vehicle was appropriately marked.
Q: What should I keep in mind next time I’m being signaled to pull over on the road?
A: There are a few guidelines that can make the experience of being pulled over run more smoothly. As soon as you’ve stopped the car, stay seated in the driver’s seat with both hands visible on your steering wheel. Don’t offer anything (like license or registration) unless the law enforcement official asks for it. Don’t make any unexpected or sudden movements and, if it’s dark out, turn your interior lights on so the officer can see you clearly.
If you have any passengers in the car, ask them to keep quiet and comply with any orders given by the police officer. In the event that you receive a citation, it’s in your best interest to stay calm instead of arguing, though it’s okay to ask the cop polite clarifying questions.
Q: Does accepting a ticket from an officer mean that I agree with their citation?
A: No, keep in mind that an arrest isn’t the same as a conviction. Arguing with the police is never a good idea and will only hurt your case. Just accept what they’re telling you at the time and comply with their requests, whether you agree with them or not. You can contest the citation or charges later on, after you’ve hired legal representation.
What to Do if You Need Help with an Unlawful Flight Charge
Since unlawful flight is a felony conviction, it comes with steep consequences including hefty fines, long prison terms, and a permanent mark on your record. As mentioned, an officer can legally arrest you for failing to stop, even if you didn’t intend to evade them.
If you’re facing an unlawful flight charge due to a simple mistake, you must work with a qualified legal professional to protect your future. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the better your chances will be at having your charges dropped or reduced.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.
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