What is Eluding?
Eluding is a common crime charged in Virginia that deals with attempting to evade police officers while driving a car. Virginia Code 46.2-817 sets outs the particulars of the charge. In laymen’s terms, someone is guilty of eluding when they have been signaled to pull over by a police officer and tries to escape or even simply ignores the officer. A conviction for eluding can also be had where the defendant pulls over and then attempts to escape the police on foot. Importantly, the driver must have received a signal from the police that he needs to stop his vehicle. As well, if the driver reasonably believes that the person pursing him is not actually a police officer then he won’t be guilty of eluding.
A garden variety eluding is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months in jail and a fine as much as $1,000. However, if a person or police officer is endangered by the chase, then the charge is a class 6 felony carrying heftier penalties. Further, a court must suspend the offender’s license for between 30 days and 12 months. If the eluding individual was traveling faster than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit, then the suspension will be for a minimum of 90-days.
What are Common Issues in Eluding Cases?
Eluding cases can sometimes be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove. One of the big issues is whether the defendant was aware that he was being pursued by the police. The police first must prove that the officer made some kind of indication to the driver that he needed to pull over and that the defendant actually received that indication. There is further the question of whether the defendant could have perceived the signal as being directed at him and knew what the signal meant. This may not help the defendant if the police officer pulled up behind him or her and turned his lights on, but can be some circumstances where the Commonwealth may not be able to produce the evidence necessary to prove this element of the crime.
Another issue that sometimes occurs when the defendant gets away is whether the police can prove who was driving the car. Just because the car is owned by a particular individual does not mean that the person was driving the car when the chase occurred. Where the defendant escapes, the police will often be forced to rely on circumstantial evidence and inference in order to prove the identity of the driver. Further, if there is more than one occupant of a chased vehicle the police will need to prove which party was responsible. The police must prove all of this beyond a reasonable doubt, which sometimes provides room for a defendant to defeat an eluding charge.
What Will a Sentence for Eluding Look Like?
A sentence for eluding will usually vary depending on the seriousness of the chase. A chase in which people, including police officers, were put in danger will often lead to a more lengthy period of incarceration. Indeed, even danger to the driver of the escaping vehicle can be looked at by the judge to determine the potential length of the sentence. In many cases, there will be videotape of the chase from cameras on the police vehicle. This will allow the judge to take a look and see exactly how dangerous the chase was.