Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement
When a police officer turns on their lights and sirens or otherwise initiates a traffic stop, motorists are required to stop. A driver’s failure to do so will not only raise the officer’s suspicions but is also a criminal offense. In fact, under Arizona Revised Statutes § 28-622.01, fleeing police is a felony. However, unlawful flight from law enforcement can be a difficult charge to prove. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our dedicated Phoenix criminal defense attorney has decades of experience defending those arrested for fleeing police.What Is Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement in Arizona?
In Arizona, unlawful flight from a police officer is a crime that imposes harsh penalties upon those who intentionally flee or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer that is in the process of effectuating a traffic stop.
Under A.R.S. § 28-622.01, fleeing has a few different meanings. For example, failing to stop for a marked police car that has its red and blue lights on is considered fleeing. However, it is also considered fleeing for a driver to refuse to stop for an unmarked car if one of the two situations apply:
- The driver admits they knew they were being pursued by a law enforcement vehicle; or
- The available evidence suggests that the driver knew they were being pursued by a law enforcement vehicle.
Thus, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that you actually knew a police officer was trying to stop you; however, if there is no direct evidence you knew you were being stopped, the prosecution must present additional evidence showing that you were aware you were being pursued.How Does the Government Prove You Knew You Were Fleeing?
There are a few different types of evidence that prosecutors can rely on when attempting to prove unlawful flight. The most straightforward example is if you admitted that you knew a law enforcement officer was trying to stop you, for example, by apologizing during the traffic stop. However, there are other ways the evidence may show you knew you were being pursued, such as:
- You engaged in evasive driving behavior;
- You began speeding immediately after the unmarked car flipped on its lights or sirens; or
- You quickly pulled into a garage or parking space and began to flee on foot.
Keep in mind, if the police car was marked as such and the officer had turned on the cruiser’s lights, there is no requirement for the prosecutor to prove you knew you were being pursued because it’s implied by the surrounding circumstances.What Is the Punishment for Fleeing Police?
Unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle is a Class 5 felony. In Arizona, Class 5 felony offenses are punishable by a prison term of 6 months to 2.5 years, with a presumptive sentence of 2 years for a first-time offender.
Any sentence you receive for unlawful flight can be added to any other punishment related to another criminal offense. For example, if you were fleeing police because you were driving under the influence, your sentence for the DUI conviction would stack with the unlawful flight sentence, adding to your overall exposure.Have You Been Arrested for Unlawful Flight from a Police Officer?
If you were recently charged with the unlawful flight of a police officer, it is important that you work with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney who is committed to reaching the best result possible. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we pride ourselves on our ability to develop strategic defenses to tough cases. For more than 25 years, we’ve defended the rights and freedoms of countless clients, helping them move on with their lives after their arrests. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with our Phoenix vehicle crimes lawyer today, call 480-413-1499. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.