Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement

Experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Aggressively Representing Clients Facing Maricopa County Vehicle Crimes

Unlawful flight, or fleeing police as it is often referred to, is an Arizona crime that imposes harsh punishments on those who fail to stop at the direction of a marked—and in some cases, unmarked—law enforcement vehicle. If you are convicted of fleeing police, you’ll end up with a felony on your record and could be sentenced to serve time in jail. However, there are several solid defenses that may apply in your situation.

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our dedicated Phoenix unlawful flight lawyer has extensive experience defending the rights and freedoms of clients facing serious vehicular crimes. We’re familiar with all the best unlawful flight defenses, when they apply, and how they can be used effectively to minimize your exposure.

What Is Unlawful Flight in Arizona?

Unlawful flight, officially known as "unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle," is a criminal offense that occurs when a driver knowingly flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement vehicle, typically marked by sirens and flashing lights, that is pursuing them. The key elements of this offense are the driver's awareness of the pursuing law enforcement vehicle and their deliberate decision to evade the law enforcement officer.

In Arizona, unlawful flight is treated as a serious offense and is classified as a class 5 felony. This classification means that if convicted, an individual could face significant legal consequences, including imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record. The severity of the punishment often depends on the circumstances of the chase, including the duration, speed, and whether any dangerous or reckless driving occurred during the attempt to evade the police.

It's important to note that this offense is distinct from other traffic violations or misdemeanors. Unlawful flight specifically involves the act of evading law enforcement, and it is common for Maricopa County prosecutors to bring unlawful flight charges in addition to other related offenses, such as driving under the influence or reckless driving.

What Is the Punishment for Unlawful Flight under A.R.S. 28-622.01?

Unlawful flight is a Class 5 felony offense, which means that if you are convicted, you could very likely be sentenced to serve jail time. While sentences vary widely, the presumptive sentence for an unlawful flight conviction under A.R.S. 28-622.01 is 18 months. Further, because unlawful flight is a felony, you will be subject to a fine of up to $150,000, although typically, the fine issued by the court is significantly less than the maximum.

Defenses to Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement

There are several potential defenses that you may be able to use if you’ve been charged with unlawful flight from law enforcement. Three of the common defenses include:

Lack of Knowledge: One of the primary defenses is to argue that you were not aware that a law enforcement officer was attempting to execute a traffic stop. The unlawful flight statute requires the prosecution to prove that you knowingly fled from a law enforcement vehicle. If you can show that you were unaware of the police officer's presence or signals or reasonably believed that the vehicle pursuing them was not a law enforcement vehicle, this could be a valid defense.
Mistake of Fact: This defense is related to the first one but focuses on situations where someone made an honest and reasonable mistake. For instance, if you believed that you were being followed by a criminal who was posing as a police officer, you could argue that your conscious decision to flee was based on a mistake of fact rather than an intent to evade law enforcement.
Duress or Coercion: In some situations, you may be able to argue that you were under duress or coercion, meaning that you were forced to flee due to threats or harm from another person. This defense would require evidence showing that your actions were a result of fear for your own safety or the safety of others rather than an attempt to evade law enforcement.

Of course, each of these defenses requires specific factual evidence to support the claim. The success of any defense depends on the circumstances of the case and the ability to convincingly present evidence supporting the defense. Having the assistance of an experienced Phoenix unlawful flight lawyer is crucial in these cases, as a lawyer can provide guidance on the most appropriate defense strategy based on the details of the incident.

Have You Been Charged with Fleeing Police?

If you were recently arrested for unlawful flight from law enforcement, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a veteran criminal defense attorney with particular experience defending clients charged with serious vehicle crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Maricopa County criminal defense attorney today, call Attorney Novak at 480-413-1499. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.