Encounters with law enforcement can be intimidating and you may run away on instinct, because you are scared, don’t trust the police, or any other plausible reason. This usually doesn’t work in your favor as it gives police probable cause to give chase and in some instances the act of fleeing is a crime in itself.
Fleeing Police on Foot
One scenario in which fleeing police becomes a separate legal question is when the flight itself is unprovoked. The seminal case the U.S. Supreme Court decided many years ago involved a group of kids running from police doing a routine patrol of the neighborhood. The police gave chase on the grounds that the fleeing itself was suspicious. One defendant being chased threw away a crack rock prior to being apprehended. The Supreme Court had to decide if the seizure of the defendant was lawful since there was no probable cause to support specific criminal wrongdoing beforehand. Ultimately, the drugs the defendant threw away were admissible because he did not comply with the officer’s show of authority. The act of fleeing thus gives police a lawful reason to detain a suspect. See California v. Hodari.
Fleeing Police in a Vehicle
Under Illinois Statute 625 ILCS 5/11-204, fleeing police in a vehicle is a crime. If police try to pull you over by flashing lights or sirens and you drive away, this act is considered a Class A misdemeanor. The crime as charged is fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer.
The consequences for fleeing police are fairly severe. The first offense is a misdemeanor and also result in suspension of driving privileges for 6 months. A second conviction is also a misdemeanor, but could result in license suspension for a year. The third offense is considered a Class 4 felony and could result in lengthy imprisonment.
The elements to prove this offense are that police gave the driver a visual or audible signal to pull over and the driver willfully ignored the officer by not stopping, increasing speed, extinguishing lights, or otherwise fled or attempted to elude police. Given these elements, it is a plausible defense that the driver’s conduct was unintentional and not meant to elude or flee. So not stopping because you didn’t see the officer or couldn’t hear the siren is not a crime. Another defense would be that the officer did not use his flashing lights or siren to signal the driver to stop.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have encountered law enforcement either on foot or in a car and are accused of fleeing, your first call should be to a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney for assistance.