In Virginia, it is illegal to ignore a police officer’s signal to stop, whether you are in a car or on foot. According to Virginia Code §46.2-817, if you purposely ignore or run away from a police officer after he/she has sounded his/her siren or flashed their vehicle’s lights, it could be considered a violation. Eluding an officer of the law is a chargeable offense in and of itself, but if you are also driving recklessly, you may also be charged with reckless driving. The two offenses are separate offenses, and you may be charged with both. The eluding offense, normally a misdemeanor, may become a felony if you also endanger the welfare of other people or the police.
Virginia Penalties for Eluding the Police
If convicted, there are different possible penalties for eluding the police in Virginia. A misdemeanor eluding offense may be penalized with up to a $2,500 fine and/or up to 1 year in jail. If you are convicted of a Class 6 felony eluding offense, you may be penalized with up to a $2,500 fine and/or one to five years in jail. Some circumstances may warrant the judge or jury, at their discretion, to allow a more lenient sentence of less than one year in jail.
When a police officer has been killed and there is a conviction of a Class 4 felony eluding offense, the penalty is a fine of up to $100,000 and a two to ten year prison sentence. According to Virginia Code §46.2-817, any eluding offense conviction will result in the suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days and up to one year. Virginia law additionally sets a minimum of a 90-day driver’s license suspension if you were speeding more than 20 mph over the speed limit during the time you were eluding the officer.
Felony Charge for Eluding the Police
Any eluding offense becomes a Class 6 felony when the eluding offense causes an interruption of the safe operation of the police car, causes real danger to the police officer, or endangers anyone else’s safety or wellbeing. If the act of eluding law enforcement causes the death of a police officer, the offense then becomes a Class 4 felony.
Possible Legal Defenses
As with any case involving a traffic violation, it is highly recommended that you consult with a qualified legal professional if you have been charged with eluding the police. Depending on the situation and the unique elements effecting your case, an attorney may be able to petition the court to have the charge lessened, or even dropped entirely. Here are some examples of common defenses used in Virginia:
- A traffic defense lawyer may be able to get your charge dropped if you did not realize you were being signaled to stop or if you thought you were being followed by someone other than a law enforcement officer.
- The law states that in order to get an eluding offense conviction, you must have eluded the officer on purpose and with full knowledge. Therefore, any prosecutor must prove this fact. If you did not realize the police officer was signaling you to stop because you did not see or hear the signal, it may be possible to defend against the eluding offense charge.
- Additionally, if you reasonably thought the pursuing officer was in fact not a police officer, an eluding charge may be overturned. An example of this is if you were being pursued by an unmarked car using no sirens or lights.
Contact Us To Discuss Your Case!
If you are facing charges for eluding the police, or other traffic violations – contact The Brown Firm PLLC immediately. Our firm’s traffic defense lawyers have extensive courtroom experience and will be able to protect your rights in court. We are prepared to take all legal means available to ensure you receive the best result possible for your case. We offer free in-person or phone consultations to help you understand your options moving forward. Call our office to discuss your options or, send us a message online with a brief description of your case.