It happens in a flash – you’re spotted by police and in a snap decision you decide to cut down a side street rather than deal with the infraction that caught the cop’s attention. Or worse, a police car starts chasing you and before you know it, you’re being arrested by law enforcement for not immediately pulling over for a car you didn’t know was a police officer. Regardless of the circumstances, unlawful flight, often referred to as felony flight, is a serious crime under Arizona law. The good news is that this crime is also extremely defensible.
Felony Flight Law in Arizona
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-622.01, you can be charged with felony flight or unlawful flight if you willfully flee or attempt to elude a law enforcement vehicle if the law enforcement vehicle is:
- A marked police car and:
- The officer sounds the siren and emergency lights (if emergency lights are available); or
- An unmarked police car but:
- The driver admits they knew the car was a police vehicle; or
- Evidence shows that the driver knew the car was a police vehicle.
Penalties for Felony Flight
The penalties for felony flight involve both consequences in and out of the courtroom. In addition to jail or prison time, those convicted of felony flight will face consequences from the court, MVD, employers and others. These consequences are in addition to any other mandatory punishment that may be applicable if the person fleeing police is also charges with crimes such as DUI, criminal traffic violations, vehicular aggravated assault or vehicular murder.
Felony flight is considered a class 5 felony under Arizona law. Class 5 felonies are punishable by:
- Probation for up to 3 years; or
- Between .5 and 2.5 years in prison;
- Fines and fees;
- Criminal Restitution (if applicable).
SIDE NOTE: If your license is revoked for unlawful flight, your driving privileges are NOT automatically reinstated after the one year has passed. You must apply to have your driving privileges reinstated by completing a Revocation Application (also called an Investigation Packet) with MVD and pay a reinstatement fee. You must also complete any other court or MVD requirements, such as paying all fines, traffic survival school, or alcohol/drug counseling.
Other Potential Consequences
- Insurance Premium Increases;
- Possible SR 22 Insurance;
- Professional licensing restrictions;
- Felony Criminal Conviction.
Defending Felony Flight
A winning defense strategy to felony flight is extremely fact specific so speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the particulars of your individual case is necessary before a definitive defense strategy can be outlined. However, some of the more common defense to unlawful flight charges are as follows:
- Lack of Knowledge. The prosecution must prove that you “willfully” eluded police. As such, drivers who can establish that they were distracted by loud music or being on the phone have a viable defense.
- Insufficiency of Evidence. Attacking the officer’s version of facts necessary to establish that the car was marked or that lights and sirens were used at specific moments.
- Miranda Violations. If the officer violated your Miranda rights, necessary evidence could be precluded leading to dismissal of charges.
- Right to Counsel Violations. As with Miranda, a right to counsel violation may give way to dismissal of your case.
- Lost, Destroyed, Unpreserved Evidence. If law enforcement fails to preserve or losses evidence, a defense attorney can use this to assist in establishing reasonably doubt.
- Identity Issues. In cases where a suspect was successful in eluding police or ran from an accident scene but were later apprehended, proving identity can be a major obstacle for police.
At Feldman & Royle, we have handled every type of vehicular crime and have experience negotiating the complex criminal justice landscape. Even in instances of strong evidence against the defendant, there are still a number of ways that an experienced defense attorney can waive certain penalties and drastically decrease any potential punishment. contact Feldman & Royle to learn more about how we can defend your case and protect your rights. We offer a free initial consultation.