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Florida law provides harsh punishments for anyone charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. It is one of the few traffic related offenses that is classified as a felony, and in addition to running the risk of becoming a convicted felon, defendants can face incarceration, probation and driver’s license suspensions. If you have been charged with fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer do not gamble with your future by showing up to court without an experienced lawyer. Judges and prosecutors take this offense seriously, and police officers tend to take these cases personally. A lawyer can thoroughly examine the case to determine what defenses are available, and potentially have the charged dismissed or reduced before your trial date. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in fleeing and eluding charges in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. He is also an experienced criminal traffic lawyer in Martin and St. Lucie County, who is available 7 days a week for a free consultation. Benjamin has flexible office hours at his Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach locations, and can travel to meet at a convenient location anywhere from Miami to Port St. Lucie.
Under Florida statute 316.1935 it is unlawful for drivers to willfully refuse to stop their vehicles when ordered to do so by authorized law enforcement. The order can be given verbally by an officer on the street or by a police car with lights and/or sirens activated. A driver who stops or pulls over must also remain in the vehicle until the officer states otherwise. Fleeing and eluding are two different acts, but the crime is the same. Fleeing is basically driving away from an officer, and eluding can be hiding, or any other act that shows an intent to evade detection. Anyone charged with fleeing or eluding in Florida faces third-degree felony charges that will be handled in the circuit court. The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to five years in prison, and there is also a mandatory driver’s license revocation of 1 to 5 years. Perhaps the harshest penalty is that the judge may not grant a withhold of adjudication, so even first-time offenders face the lifelong stain of a felony conviction if they are found guilty. Any vehicle that is used in a crime of fleeing or eluding can be deemed contraband and seized by the government as well. These harsh penalties make hiring the right lawyer essential to keeping you out of jail and making sure your record stays clean. Benjamin has won numerous fleeing charges in Florida, and fights to have the charges dismissed or reduced immediately upon being hired.
A defendant’s right to argue legal defenses may be limited in fleeing or eluding cases, but there are numerous factual defenses that may be available. Generally, a defendant in a traffic case can argue the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate a stop, but this does not apply to cases where the defendant failed to follow the order to stop. To have standing to argue an illegal detention a defendant must first show a submission to legal authority. Fleeing or eluding is by definition the failure to submit to a show of authority, thus arguing an unlawful stop will not be a legitimate argument in fleeing cases. On the other hand, there are strong factual arguments that if properly raised could result in a dismissal or acquittal at jury trial. The state must prove the defendant knowingly and intentionally fled or eluded the police. This requires evidence that the officer made a clear command to stop, which often comes down to the officer’s word. The same reason why fleeing charges are so common is also the reason why they are beatable at trial; the testimony of a police officer is often the only evidence of wrongdoing. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida fleeing and eluding lawyer who knows how to cross examine police officers in a way that exposes their biases, and he relentlessly questions all state witnesses. Call Benjamin to find out which defenses and strategies may be successful in your Tri-County or Treasure Coast fleeing case at (954) 543-0305.