Being subjected to a traffic stop in Virginia can be a worrisome experience. Still, fleeing law enforcement during a traffic stop will likely make any situation worse. For those who are facing charges for fleeing, it is important to understand what the law says and what the penalties might be, so that a coherent defense can be formulated.
When a law enforcement officer has given a signal for a driver to stop and the person flees, the driver can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, the driver can make an affirmative defense that they believed that the person pursuing them was not a police officer. A conviction for a Class 2 misdemeanor can result in a jail sentence of up to six months, a fine of $1,000 or both.
If a driver flees an officer and the pursuit endangers the officer or another person, the driver can be charged with a Class 6 felony. The same affirmative defense applies. A conviction for a Class 6 felony will result in one to five years in prison. The court has the discretion to limit the jail sentence to 12 months, assess a fine of $2,500 or both. If a driver flees and a law enforcement officer is killed because of the pursuit, the driver will face a Class 4 felony charge and a jail sentence of two to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.
A conviction for these violations will also result in a driver’s license suspension for at least 30 days and up to one year. If the driver was speeding and surpassed the speed limit by 20 mph, the suspension will be for at least 90 days. Obviously, it is not advisable to flee law enforcement in a traffic stop, but, when it does happen, it is imperative to understand what the penalties are. Having a legal defense for fleeing is important for the driver’s future and an experienced attorney may help.