In today’s video, we’re talking about a crime in Arizona called unlawful flight, otherwise known as fleeing from the police.
We’ll talk about what the statute says is prohibited conduct, what’s required from the government to show that somebody is guilty of this offense.
We’ll talk about what the penalties are and some of the best defenses.
So let’s take a look at where this law is housed, it’s under ARS 28-622.01.
And here’s what it says, it says that a driver of a motor vehicle must willfully flee or attempt to elude law enforcement officers or a police vehicle. But, it describes a little bit further about what is required from that vehicle.
So, the pursuing official vehicle, it must be an official law enforcement vehicle, it’s being operated in its official capacity, it’s marked it’s very clear that it is a law enforcement vehicle.
So, if a person willfully flees an officially marked law enforcement vehicle, those are the elements that are required for unlawful flight. Next, if it is an unmarked vehicle, then there are a couple of other requirements.
So, if a person is fleeing an unmarked vehicle two additional things or one of two other additional things are required in order for it to meet the elements of unlawful flight.
So the driver either must know or must admit after they’ve been stopped or arrested that they knew it was a law enforcement officer.
So they’ll say, they knew it was unmarked, but they knew they were being pursued from the police. Or there’s other evidence that shows they knew. That they had reason to know or they did, in fact, know that that was a law enforcement vehicle.
So, if either one of those two things is true and the vehicle was unmarked and they were attempting to flee it, then that is going to meet the requirements of unlawful flight. It’s important to break down these types of charges so that you could see what is required.
Because if you can break and beat any one of these elements, you can theoretically beat the entire charge.
So for example, if somebody was fleeing from an unmarked vehicle but they didn’t do one of these two things, there’s no evidence that shows that they knew that it was law enforcement or they never made any admissions about it, it’s not going to be unlawful flight.
That’s why it’s important to know these different things and be able to analyze them thoroughly.
So, if a person has been charged with unlawful flight, that is going to be considered a class five felony.
Now I skipped over this part here, but there’s a note here that I wrote, that says, it doesn’t matter why a person is being stopped.
So a person can be stopped and being pulled over for a major problem like an outstanding felony warrant or they can be stopped for just a simple registration violation, doesn’t matter what it is.
If that person leaves that scene, if they’re evading an officer, it’s still going to be a class five felony.
As a quick recap, in Arizona we have six different classifications of felonies. Class one is at the top, it’s the most serious. Class six is the least serious.
So, class five is sort of right there, near the bottom. But, it’s still not the least serious.
So, it’s still something that needs to be addressed appropriately. Some common defenses, of course, the reason why willfully, is underlined here, is because it can be shown that there was no intent to actually evade or elude law enforcement, then it’s not going to be considered to have been done willfully.
If a person is just simply unaware, that a police officer is attempting to stop them, if the radio is on too loud if they believe that an officer was trying to pull somebody else over, if it was very rainy or windy or there’s something that caused the visibility problem.
There’s a number of reasons why an individual may not know that an officer is attempting to pull them over.
And if you could show that this portion of the offense willfully has not been met if the person was just doing this unknowingly, that’s going to be a good defense, ’cause you’re going to be able to break one of the elements of the law itself.
Next, if there was a mistake, I went over that. If there was no reason that a person should know that an officer was attempting to stop them, if it was just a mistake, it wasn’t intentional, that’s going to be a good defense.
If an individual is eventually stopped and they don’t meet any of these other elements, so if they don’t actually make an admission or if there’s no other evidence that shows that they knew about it, then that’s going to be a good defense.
Again, it’s going to break one of these elements. And, the way that we really defend against these cases is to do a very thorough investigation.
So it’s to interview everybody who was involved, including any passengers in the vehicle so that we could sort of recreating what was happening in the vehicle.
It could be true that other passengers in the car, not only the person who was driving the car but other individuals, friends, spouses, children, anybody else who was involved, also may not have had any idea that the police were attempting to conduct a traffic stop.
So you want to make sure you get them on the record.
You can also interview the police, so you can get their frame of mind as well, ask them a series of questions and then see where they’re coming from.
Also, we’re able to get in many cases, some jurisdictions don’t have these, but body cam footage, or even better dash cam footage. We want to sort of piece together what happened over a certain period of time.
So, you want to look at how long our the police saying that this evasion or this eluding actually occurred. Was it for 30 seconds? Was it for 10 minutes? How far did they go? How far did they travel?
There’s a lot of different variables that come into play to determine whether or not what a person was doing meets the standard.
Whether they were fleeing or eluding the police or whether a person was driving home and had no idea the police were trying to stop them.
So, if you or a loved one has been charged with unlawful flight or any type of an offense that’s similar to this, evading the police or failing to obey a police officer, give our office a call. We do criminal defense law here.
We’ve helped many, many people in virtually every court throughout the state of Arizona. We offer a free case evaluation.
So, give us a call we’ll put together a plan for you, make sure you understand how this all works. And most importantly, make sure we can get you through this with minimal impact on your life.
We look forward to speaking with you soon, thanks for watching.
The unlawful flight is, essentially, fleeing from the police. In Arizona, an unlawful flight is a serious charge that is usually added onto other underlying charges.
The unlawful flight is found under A.R.S. § 28-622.01. It is a class 5 felony in Arizona. The statute states that the driver of a vehicle must “willfully flee or attempt to elude” law enforcement officers for it to be considered an unlawful fight. It doesn’t matter why a person is being stopped. They could be pulled over for a major issue, such as an outstanding warrant, or it could be for something as simple as a registration violation. It doesn’t matter what it is if that person knowingly evades the officer, it is still going to be a class 5 felony.
There are certain elements that must apply to the pursuing official vehicle for unlawful flight to be properly charged. For instance, the vehicle must be operated in its official capacity. This means that the vehicle is marked and that it is very clear it is a law enforcement vehicle.
However, if the vehicle is unmarked and the fleeing driver admits that they knew they were being pursued by law enforcement, the statute would apply. Additionally, if there is evidence that the driver knew or had reason to know that they were being pursued by law enforcement, an unlawful flight would apply regardless of whether they admitted it.
It is important to break down these types of charges and see what is required because if any one of the elements can be dismissed, the entire charge may be dismissed. For example, if someone was fleeing from an unmarked vehicle, but they did not admit and was no evidence to show that they knew it was a law enforcement officer they were being pursued by, it would not be considered unlawful flight.
If it can be shown that there was no intent to evade or elude law enforcement, then it will not be considered to have been done willfully, which is required by the statute. If it can be shown that someone is simply unaware that a police officer is attempting to stop them, it will be a good defense because it breaks one of the elements of the law itself.
All of this shows that it is extremely important to do a thorough investigation when charged with an unlawful flight. This means interviewing everyone involved, including any passengers in the vehicle. If there were other people in the car with you that were also unaware that a law enforcement officer was in pursuit, it would be stronger evidence to dismiss the elements of unlawful flight. Interviewing police officers and getting the body and dash cam footage is also extremely helpful in recreating the event in order to determine whether unlawful flight applies. There are many factors that weigh into these types of cases, such as how long the evasion allegedly occurred and how far the vehicles traveled.
If you have been charged with unlawful flight, give our office a call. We offer free case evaluations, and we will put together a plan that best suits you and your case.