Eluding the Police in Virginia – Is it a Felony?

eluding police

Eluding the police is a crime in Virginia, but exactly what type of crime and what punishment you may be looking at will depend upon the specifics facts of your case.

Eluding law

Virginia law lays out the basic standard and punishments for eluding the police in Virginia Code 46.2-817:

Any person who, having received a visible or audible signal from any law-enforcement officer to bring his motor vehicle to a stop, drives such motor vehicle in a willful and wanton disregard of such signal or who attempts to escape or elude…

That’s the basic standard. If you’ve been given a signal to stop by law enforcement, you must stop. Failure to do so is a crime.

Different varieties of eluding the police

But the law gets a little more complicated than that. There are different things that could be considered eluding, and there are different levels of eluding the police in Virginia.

1. Disregarding the signal to stop.

This is the basic version of eluding. If all you do is continue driving without stopping, this would be considered misdemeanor eluding in Virginia.

2. Attempting to escape of elude.

Even if you’re attempting to actually get away from the police officer, you may just be charged with a misdemeanor. An easy example here would be someone who accelerates slightly or maybe turns off onto a side road.

3. Interfering with or endangering law enforcement or another person.

This is where you begin to get into serious trouble. If the Commonwealth can prove that you didn’t stop or you actually attempted to elude AND you were interfering with the law enforcement cruiser or endangering anyone, you can be charged with a class 6 felony. That’s bad news and could mean serious problems for you if convicted.

4. Killing a law enforcement officer involved in the pursuit.

If you attempt to elude law enforcement and one of those officers is killed in the pursuit, you can be charged with a class 4 felony.

What are the punishments for eluding the police in Virginia?

Misdemeanor eluding is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor. This means that you can be given jail of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Felony eluding can be charged as either a class 6 felony or class 4 felony. For class 6 felony eluding, you can be imprisoned for up to 5 years and/or be given a fine of up to $2,500. For class 4 felony eluding, you can be given a fine of up to $100,000 and prison of 2-10 years.

License suspension is required for any conviction of eluding under Virginia law. If convicted, your license must be suspended for at least 30 days but not more than one year. If it’s proven that you drove more than 20 mph over the speed limit while eluding, your license must be suspended for at least 90 days.

Are there defenses to eluding in Virginia?

Yes.

The first and best defense is that you simply didn’t receive a signal to stop. The law says you must have “received a visible or audible signal” to stop from law-enforcement. That must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The law doesn’t simply say that the officer “gave” you a signal. But you have have “received” it.

That means if you didn’t admit to the officer that you saw him, the judge or jury will have to decide if you should have seen or heard the officer’s signal. In some cases, this may be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove.

Another defense is that you “reasonably” believed the person who was pursuing you was NOT law enforcement. This is an affirmative defense, which means that we must prove it to the Court’s satisfaction. But if the judge or jury believe that you reasonably thought the pursuer wasn’t an officer, you should be found not guilty of eluding.

What should you do next?

If you’re accused of eluding or attempting to elude in Virginia, you should contact me for a free case strategy session. We can review the facts and your situation to see what defenses you may have.

Photo by: Ivan Vranić hvranic Passing bus

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