Written by attorney Daniel P. Hilf

Fleeing and Eluding the Police

Fleeing and Eluding in Michigan involves an accusation that an individual disobeyed a visual signal (for example, overhead lights, a hand sign, etc.) or audible signal (for example, a siren, a verbal command, etc.) given by a police officer acting in the lawful performance of his or her duty to stop their automobile. There are 4 primary charges for this activity:

First Degree Fleeing and Eluding is charged in instances where another person dies during the course of the fleeing and/or eluding. This is a 15 year maximum felony and/or a $10,000 file, and driver's license revocation.

Second Degree Fleeing and Eluding is charged when the fleeing and/or eluding results in serious injury to another person, OR the individual has one or more prior convictions for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Degree Fleeing and Eluding, OR two or more convictions for 4th Degree Fleeing and Eluding. If convicted of this felony, an individual faces a potential 10 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, and driver's license revocation.

Third Degree Fleeing and Eluding is charged when a collision or accident occurs during the offense, OR a portion of the offense occurred in an area where the speed limit was 35 mph or less, OR the individual had a prior conviction for Fleeing and Eluding and commits a 4th Degree Fleeing and Eluding. The potential punishment is a felony sentence of up to 5 years in prison and/or $1,000 fine, and suspension of the individual's driver's license.

Fourth Degree Fleeing and Eluding is charged in instances where an individual flees and/or eludes the police in a vehicle and none of the above referenced aggravating factors exist. This offense is a felony that carries a potential punishment of up to 2 years in prison and/or a $500 fine, and suspension of the individual's driver's license.

A person convicted of any of these offenses also will receive 6 points to his or her driving record, and a 2 year $1,000 driver's responsibility fee. There is no hardship appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State for these offenses to attempt to regain driving privileges.

In many instances these offenses occur when an individual is trying to get their car home with the false belief that the car will not be impounded if he or she stops at their residence rather than stops immediately. Fleeing and Eluding can occur no matter if the individual obeys the speed limit, stops at traffic lights and stop signs, and otherwise does not violate the traffic code - failure to stop when directed is enough. Even through the offense is titled "Fleeing and Eluding", the more appropriate title would be "fleeing and/or eluding" because either fleeing the police in a vehicle or eluding the police in a vehicle is sufficient for a charge to result.

Potential defenses to Fleeing and Eluding offenses include: failing to stop immediately because it was not safe; there was an emergency or necessity that caused the driver not to stop; equipment failure; the driver believed that the person attempting to stop him or her was not actually a police officer; the police officer was not performing a lawful duty; the driver did not know or realize that the police officer was trying to stop him or her; mistaken identity of the driver; and the driver did not flee and/or elude. The success of these defenses depends upon the facts of the case, the quality of the legal representation, and the interpretation of the law to the facts by the Judge or Jury sitting in judgment. Sometimes video and/or audio exist from the patrol car involved can be obtained by the criminal lawyer to properly defend the case or place the matter in its proper context.

There are less serious offenses that a prosecutor can consider in relation to these offenses. Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury or Property Damage Accident or Failing to Stop at and Give Identification at the Scene of a Crash is a misdemeanor offense that carries 6 points on a driving record. This offense is charged when an individual fails to stop after an accident with another civilian or civilian vehicle occurs, without pursuit by the police. Reckless Driving also is a misdemeanor offense that carries 6 points on a driving record. Careless driving is a civil infraction (not a criminal charge) that carries 3 points on a driving record

In most instances these offenses are not subject to expungement because they are written under the criminal motor vehicle code (MCL 257.602a), rather than under the criminal penal code (MCL 750.479a), even though the prosecution has the option to pursue either charge. Also, if this offense is charged pursuant to MCL 257.602a the prosecutor is prevented from offering a plea bargain to Attempted 4th Degree Fleeing and Eluding to trey to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor, because under the motor vehicle code the Court must impose the same penalty for an attempt as it would for the regular offense.

If charged with any of these offenses you should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. These offenses can affect an individual's freedom, reputation, employment, finances, and ability to operate a motor vehicle. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help in several ways.

First, an experienced criminal defense attorney can pursue dismissal of the charge(s) or suppression of evidence based upon Constitution grounds when appropriate.

Second, an experienced criminal defense attorney can raise necessary defenses, and argue those defenses in a compelling manner, in order to attempt to win acquittal at trial.

Third, an experienced criminal defense attorney can sometimes negotiate a plea bargain or sentencing agreement that is beneficial to the Defendant. The criminal defense attorney can also argue for special provisions of the law, when applicable, to avoid a public conviction (such as HYTA or diversion), or sentencing options to avoid, suspend or reduce incarceration. The criminal lawyer can also challenge the scoring of the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines to try and lower the potential sentence, and argue for a downward departure from the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines when appropriate.

Sometimes in life you only have 1 opportunity to reach the right result.

Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able - just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.

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