Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BIGGER TROUBLE: FLEEING AND ELUDING POLICE IN ILLINOIS

You’ve seen it in all the cop shows. The police take off on a high speed chase after the fugitive. Of course, you never dreamed you would be starring in your own action movie, but when you saw the police, you just panicked.

So, what exactly is fleeing and eluding an officer, and what can happen to you?

In Illinois, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by jail time of up to one year and losing your license for up to six months, if you flee or attempt to elude a police officer. (625 ILCS 5/11-204.) If you are charged with aggravated fleeing, the penalties are even stiffer. Aggravated fleeing is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in jail, your license could be revoked and your car seized. (625 ILCS 5/11-204.1.) If this is a second or higher offense, the penalties increase.

And all this is on top of whatever other crime you may have committed. Plus, you may be convicted for fleeing and eluding even if the underlying offense is dropped.

To flee and elude, you must have received a visual or audible signal by a uniformed officer directing you to stop. If the officer is in their police car, they must activate their lights as well as their siren. If you willfully fail to pull over or you speed up or turn out your lights, you could be convicted.

Fleeing and eluded is upgraded to an aggravated offense if you speed more than 21 miles over the limit, cause bodily harm to a person, cause more than $300 in property damage or run more than two traffic control signals.

If you are charged with fleeing and eluding as with any other offense, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. The attorney can assist at your bail hearing to petition the judge to set a reasonable bond. An attorney can also analyze your case to present your best possible defense. As with any offense, the state has the burden of proving the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did the officer properly signal? Was he or she in uniform? Did they properly activate their lights and siren? Did you know they were trying to pull you over?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney can help negotiate a better plea bargain than you might receive on your own.

As with any other criminal offense, do not make statements to the officer or any third party about your case. Attempting to explain yourself might end up giving the prosecution exactly the evidence needed to convict. Do not talk about your case on any social media such as texting, email or Facebook. The prosecutor could get copies of your statements and use them against you.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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