Fleeing and Eluding
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:
- operating a motor vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
- having knowledge that he has been ordered to stop the vehicle by a duly authorized law enforcement officer;
- willfully refusing or failing to stop the vehicle in compliance with such order; or
- having stopped in knowing compliance with such order, willfully to flee 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, the goal in many of these cases is getting 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 with the goal of helping you achieve 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.
Find out 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 provide you with notice 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, pursuant to 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/Elude) and 315 (Fleeing/Elude – Death/SBI).
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 which is 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 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 pursuant to ss. 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 attorney for the agency must set an adversarial preliminary hearing with the court within ten (10) days of when they receive the demand.
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.
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 find out why you should demand an adversarial preliminary hearing (APH) within fifteen (15) days of receiving the notice of seizure.
We can begin your defense today against this serious criminal charge with serious criminal penalties.
Call (813) 250-0500 for a free and confidential consultation today.
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 Friday, January 20, 2023.