Fleeing and Eluding a Law Enforcement Officer

The definition of the term “fleeing a law enforcement officer” can be found in Florida Statute Section 316.003(53). The elements of fleeing and eluding under Florida law include:

  1. operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway in Florida;
  2. having knowledge that he has been ordered to stop the vehicle by a duly authorized law enforcement officer;
  3. willfully refusing or failing to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order; or
  4. having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, then willfully flees in an attempt to elude the officer.

The criminal charge of fleeing and eluding with the intention of evading the police is a serious criminal offense with serious criminal penalties under Florida law.

Unlike other felony offenses, the court is not allowed to withhold adjudication for this criminal charge. Since the court can NOT withhold adjudication, anyone who enters a plea of guilty or no contest to this charge will become a convicted felon.

For this reason, many of these cases aim to get the charges dropped or reduced to a less serious offense, such as a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.

Attorney for Fleeing to Elude Charges in Tampa, FL

An experienced criminal defense attorney can investigate defenses that exist in your case. We fight the charges aggressively to help you fight for the best possible result.

Contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm today to discuss your arrest for fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, or Pinellas County, FL.

During the free and confidential consultation, we can help you understand the charges pending against you, the potential penalties, and the best ways to fight the case aggressively.

Learn more about the difference between fleeing, eluding, and evading the police.

Call (813) 250-0500.


Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding in Florida

Is fleeing to elude a felony? Yes, Florida law provides for several versions of felony charges for fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer under Florida Statute Section 316.1935. Although Florida law formerly provided for a misdemeanor version of fleeing and eluding, now any charge for fleeing and attempting to elude is a felony offense.

The crime of fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer in Florida is charged as a third-degree felony punishable by a $5,000.00 fine and Five (5) years in Florida State Prison. In many of these cases, the law enforcement officer will also seize your vehicle and notify you of the intention to initiate a forfeiture of the vehicle.

After receiving a notice of seizure and forfeiture action, you only have 15 days to demand an adversarial preliminary hearing. Wait too long and it becomes much harder to get your vehicle back.

Effective July 1, 2004, under Florida statute 316.1935, all offenses for Fleeing and Attempting to Elude under Section 316.1935 committed on or after this date require mandatory revocation of the offender’s driving privilege.

DHSMV is authorized by Florida Statutes 322.26(3) and 322.28(1) to take departmental action for these offenses even when not directed to do so by the Court. The department action is required for any offenses reported using violation codes 314 (Fleeing to Elude) and 315 (Fleeing to Elude with Death or Serious Bodily Injury).


Penalties for Aggravated Fleeing and Attempting to Elude

Florida Statute Section 316.1935(3)(a), for fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer while siren and lights activated with high speed or reckless driving can lead to an enhanced charge if the defendant drives at a high rate of speed or with a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

The penalty for the aggravated version of the offense is enhanced to a second-degree felony, punishable by fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison.

The “Deputy John C. Mecklenburg Act” took effect on October 1, 2012. The act amended Section 782.04, F.S., to add “aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death” to the lists of offenses contained in Florida’s statutes for a first degree, second degree, and third degree murder.

When a death occurs as a result of aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, the defendant can be charged with either first or second-degree murder.

Under Section 782.065, F.S., a life sentence is required for any defendant convicted of specified murder offenses if the victim of the offense is a correctional officer or correctional probation officer.


Elements of Fleeing to Elude – Third Degree Felony

Under Section 316.1935, F.S., fleeing or eluding is classified as a third-degree felony when:

  • the driver or operator of any vehicle;
  • with the knowledge that he or she has been ordered to stop the vehicle;
  • by a duly authorized law enforcement officer;
  • willfully refuses or fails to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order; or
  • having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, willfully flees in an attempt to elude the officer.

Elements of Aggravated Fleeing to Elude – Second Degree Felony

The elements of the second-degree felony version of fleeing to elude require proof beyond all reasonable doubt that during the course of the fleeing or eluding:

  • the person drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property;
  • while fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer;
  • who is in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle;
  • with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle; and
  • with siren and lights activated.

In Hillsborough County, FL, the HCSO Inmate Arrest Details might list the offense as FLEEING TO ELUDE HIGHSPEED (TRAF3047).


Elements of Aggravated Fleeing to Elude – First Degree Felony

Under Section 316.1935(3)(b), F.S., the crime can be charged as a first degree felony, with a three-year minimum mandatory sentence if the person causes serious bodily injury or death to another person.

In other words, the offense of fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer at high speed, causing serious bodily injury or death, does not require the death of the victim; serious bodily injury of a victim is sufficient to support this offense. § 316.1935(3)(b), Fla. Stat. See also Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 28.8(a). Daniel v. State, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1201 (Fla. 1st DCA May 6, 2019).

Subsection (4) of the statute, provided below, establishes the crimes of “aggravated fleeing or eluding” and “aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death.”

The court is required to sentence any person convicted of committing aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment. However, the court is authorized to impose a greater sentence as authorized by law as provided in Section 316.1935(4)(b), F.S.


Seizing a Vehicle for Forfeiture for Fleeing to Elude

Pursuant to Section 316.1935(7), any motor vehicle involved in fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer is considered to be contraband under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. For this reason, the law enforcement agency might seize the car for forfeiture under Sections 932.701-932.704.

After the seizure, you will receive a notice of forfeiture and property receipt, which explains your rights to contest the forfeiture. If you do nothing, the agency might eventually gain title to the vehicle. Instead, hire an attorney to file a demand for an adversarial preliminary hearing (APH) within fifteen (15) days. Once your attorney files this demand, the agency’s attorney must set an adversarial preliminary hearing with the court within ten (10) days of receiving it.

If you prevail at the hearing, the court might order the agency to return the property and pay your reasonable attorney fees. If you lose the hearing, then the attorney for the agency must file a complaint for forfeiture, which is a civil lawsuit. You would then need to enter the lawsuit as a claimant to assert your claim and challenge the legality of the seizure.

In Bradshaw v. McCormick, 182 So. 3d 845 (4th DCA 2026), the court explained why a plea bargain in a criminal proceeding does not necessarily determine the outcome in a related civil forfeiture proceeding. The case involved a person arrested for fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer in violation of section 316.1935, Florida Statutes.

When the criminal case was resolved with a plea to only misdemeanor charges, the owner of the vehicle filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the judge in the circuit court. The agency appealed that decision, arguing the circuit court judge made a mistake by granting summary judgment in favor of the owner based on his plea to a misdemeanor in the related criminal case. As a result, the appellate court reversed the judgment in favor of the owner and remanded the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

The appellate court noted that two statutes authorized the forfeiture.

  • First, Subsection 316.1935(7) explains that “[a]ny motor vehicle involved in a violation of [section 316.1935] is deemed to be contraband, which may be seized by a law enforcement agency and is subject to forfeiture pursuant to ss. 932.701-932.704,” the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. § 932.701(1), Fla. Stat.
  • Second, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act defines a “contraband article” to include “[a]ny . . . vehicle of any kind . . . which was used or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of . . . any felony.” § 932.701(2)(a)(5)., Fla. Stat.

Since the forfeiture proceeding was “civil in nature,” that proceeding was distinct from the criminal case. Any judgment in a criminal proceeding was not necessarily admissible in the civil forfeiture proceeding. In other words, the seizing agency in a forfeiture proceeding is not bound by what happened in the related criminal proceeding, but has the opportunity to prove its case for forfeiture in the civil arena. See Wille v. Karrh, 423 So. 2d 963, 964 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982).

In In re Forfeiture of a 1981 Ford Auto., 432 So. 2d 732, 733 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983), the court held that “where evidence is suppressed in a criminal proceeding in such manner that the claimant in the civil forfeiture proceeding has not been subjected to jeopardy, there is no impediment to litigation in the latter proceeding of the issue of whether that same evidence was illegally seized.”

In In re Forfeiture of $31,252.00 U.S. Currency, 550 So. 2d 537, 538 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989), the court found that even when the criminal case was dismissed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.190(c)(4), that dismissal did not necessarily preclude the seizing agency from pursuing a civil forfeiture against property “involved in the allegedly criminal activity.”


Finding a Lawyer for Flee to Elude Crimes in Florida

Our offices are located in downtown Tampa, We also have offices in New Port Richey in Pasco County, and Clearwater in Pinellas County, FL.

We represent clients charged with fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, Plant City, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Bartow, Dade City, New Port Richey, Brooksville, Florida.

We also help clients fight a seizure for the forfeiture of their vehicle after an arrest for fleeing to elude. Contact us to determine why you should demand an adversarial preliminary hearing (APH) within fifteen (15) days of receiving the seizure notice.

Today, we can begin your defense against this serious criminal charge with serious criminal penalties.

Call (813) 250-0500 for a free and confidential consultation today.


Additional Resources

Florida Statute Section 316.1935 – Visit the website of the Florida Senate to find the current version of Florida Statute Section 316.1935 prohibiting fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing or eluding, including the elements of the offense, potential penalties, requirements for seizures for forfeiture, and the most common defenses.


This article was last updated on Wednesday, July 3, 2024.