Fleeing and Eluding
Fleeing and Eluding occurs when an individual attempts to avoid a potential arrest by driving away from an officer who is instructing them to stop. While there are some instances in which an accused is able to successfully outrun a cop, these attempts generally result in being caught, and will always result in mandatory imprisonment upon conviction.
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-395 reads: “It shall be unlawful for any driver of a vehicle willfully to fail or refuse to bring his or her vehicle to a stop or otherwise to flee or attempt to elude a pursuing police vehicle or police officer when given a visual or an audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop. The signal given by the police officer may be by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren. The officer giving such signal shall be in uniform prominently displaying his or her badge of office, and his or her vehicle shall be appropriately marked showing it to be an official police vehicle.”
This statute is pretty straightforward: if a uniformed officer in a marked car instructs you to stop driving, you have to stop driving. The statute does make a point that the car must be marked, however. This means that you cannot be convicted of this charge for attempting to flee from an undercover cop car. With that being said though, all other rules of the road still apply, and it would be nearly impossible to successfully outrun an unmarked cop car without breaking a few.
The only other part of the statute that can be utilized is that the accused must willfully fail to stop to be convicted. You cannot technically willfully refuse to do something you weren’t aware that you were supposed to do. In other words, you weren’t fleeing or eluding if you didn’t see or hear the sirens behind you instructing you to stop. While it’s almost impossible to prove that you didn’t hear something, keep in mind that it is often just as difficult for the prosecutor to prove that you did hear something.
Fleeing and Eluding is generally a misdemeanor offense with fines and mandatory jail time. Both the fines and jail time escalate depending on the number of times the accused has been convicted of this offense. Unlike many statutes, the minimum jail time is not eligible for suspension or probation, although each day between the minimum and maximum jail time is eligible for these reliefs.
Standard Misdemeanor Punishments
Number of Convictions Within 10 Years Fines and Required Imprisonment
1st Offense $500-$5,000 + 10 days to 12 months
2nd Offense $1,000-$5,000 + 1-12 months
3rd+ Offense $2,500-$5,000 + 3-12 months
There are also five unique circumstances that will upgrade this charge to a felony. In any case in which the charge is upgraded to a felony, the punishment will become a $5,000 fine and/or 1-5 years Imprisonment.
Upgraded Felony Punishments
Condition while Fleeing:
- Driving 20mph+ over speed limit
- Collision with another vehicle/pedestrian
- “Traffic conditions which place the general public at risk of serious injuries”
- Driving While Intoxicated (.08%+ BAC)
- Leaving the state lines of Georgia
Unaware of Instructions. The go-to defense for why you didn’t stop is that you didn’t know you needed to stop. This defense is extremely situational- it is nearly impossible to prove what somebody did or did not see or hear (such as sirens), and the court therefore will often resort to common sense. If you are driving down a busy road in the middle of the day with noisy construction around you, it could be a strong defense to say you didn’t hear or see sirens behind you. If you are being pursued by five different cop cars with blaring and flashing sirens while it is dark out, however, this may not be the strongest argument to make for your case.
Waiting for Safe Location. The statute doesn’t provide any specific timeframe in which the accused must stop after being signaled to do so. If both the officer and the accused are driving 65mph on an interstate, it would obviously not be reasonable for the driver to come to a sudden and full stop in the middle of the road- it is always reasonable that the driver take the time to find a location to stop that is safe for both the driver and the officer. Therefore, if all other rules of the road are being followed, it could be reasonable for a driver to have been driving for any amount of time while being pursued if they were looking for a gas station or other safe location to pull over.
Unmarked Car. In situations where the cop car was an unmarked undercover car, no conviction may arise for a violation of this statute. If a backup officer is called who is driving a marked car, however, this defense is no longer relevant.
In 2008, a deputy received an anonymous tip with the whereabouts of a man named Christopher Quinones, who was wanted on 11 outstanding warrants including assault of a police officer. The investigating officer was informed that Quinones had just gotten into a car being driven by Latoya Bledson, and after some driving identified the car that Ms. Bledson was driving and activated his sirens. Ms. Bledson pulled over without resistance, and waited for the stop to complete.
Given the nature of passenger Quinones’s record, the officer called for backup before engaging. During this time, Ms. Bledson made no attempt to flee. Once backup arrived, passenger Quinones exited the car and fled. A deputy gave chase to Quinones, who after a brief period of time turned around, pointed a handgun toward the deputy, and fired five shots in his direction. Bledson immediately drove away from the scene once the shots were fired.
Bledson was eventually located and arrested for Fleeing and Eluding. On appeal, the court reversed her conviction stating that “There was no evidence that the deputy was in pursuit of Bledson when she left the scene. Bledson had already complied with the officer’s signal that she bring her vehicle to a stop; thus, the purpose of the traffic stop had been completed.” Furthermore, because Bledson had not been instructed to remain at the scene and was not the object of the deputy’s pursuit, the court decided that “Under these circumstances, Bledson’ts flight from the scene simply does not equate to [willful] fleeing of pursuit by an officer, which is what the statute requires.”
CONTACT BIXON LAW TODAY
If you have been charged with Fleeing and Eluding and need the best local criminal defense attorney, give Bixon Law a call today to speak to one of our experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyers. We will vigorously defend your criminal defense rights, and advocate on your behalf to have your criminal case dismissed or your charges reduced. As experienced trial attorneys, we are not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. We represent clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. We are lawyers who are committed to helping people in difficult situations, and we invite you to call us at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation on your case today.