If you are caught by law enforcement driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Arizona, you may face charges of a misdemeanor up to a felony, depending on if anyone was hurt in an accident, or if you have been charged for a DUI before. However, if you attempt to escape a DUI by outrunning the police, you may be arrested and charged with a class 5 felony.
Arizona’s Unlawful Flight Statute
The state of Arizona has strict laws governing driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, the penalties are even harsher and compounded if a person decides to outrun the police and evade a DUI. If caught, a driver who “willfully flees” or tries to outrun or elude a law enforcement vehicle with flashing lights, a siren blaring, or visible within 500 feet will be guilty of a class 5 felony under Arizona law, along with additional charges such as a DUI, reckless driving, or speeding.
If the driver attempting to outrun the police causes an accident that leads to an injury or death or even endangers any person as he or she is “willfully fleeing,” additional more severe charges can be brought.
Charges for “Willful Fleeing”
The felony charge for unlawful flight in the state of Arizona for first-time offenders depends on the severity of the actions and pursuit that was involved. The five levels of seriousness, as determined by Arizona law from least to most severe, are mitigated, minimum, presumptive, maximum, and aggravated.
The first-offense of a class 5 felony, which can be charged for “willful fleeing” can include a penalty of zero days in jail up to one full year in jail, or prison of six months to two and a half years. If that person has even one other prior conviction, then a prison sentence will be from one year to three and three quarters of a year. If the person has two prior convictions, then the prison sentence will be from three years to seven and a half years.
Defenses for Unlawful Flight
The most common defense that exists to unlawful flight from a police officer is that the driver simply had a “lack of knowledge” that law enforcement was attempting to stop him or her, and did not notice the policer presence. Because this law requires that a driver “willfully” fled from the police, the prosecution will have to prove that the driver was aware that the police officers were following him or her, and then refused to pull over. Loud music, or looking straight ahead are possible defenses to this charge.
The other commonly used defense is “mistake of fact.” This defense admits that the driver saw the police officers, but thought that they were in pursuit of a different driver.
The final defense is that the driver knew that the police officers wanted to pull him/her over, and was simply waiting and looking for a safe space to pull over. As the driver was attempting to find a safe space, the police officers made an incorrect determination that the driver was attempting to willfully flee from law enforcement.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Willfully fleeing from the police can mean a class 5 felony offense conviction, along with other criminal charges. Arja Shah is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix, AZ. Learn your legal options and have strong representation by your side in your criminal case. Contact us today by calling (602) 888-0369 or by sending a message through the firm’s request form today.