The sight of flashing lights in your rearview mirror and the sound of wailing police sirens can trigger an instant wave of panic. In that fleeting moment, the temptation to flee might cross your mind. However, giving in to that impulse can set off a chain of serious legal repercussions, including serious criminal charges.
In this blog, we take a look at the potential legal ramifications when you flee from the police, with a focus on the importance of consulting with experienced criminal defence lawyers when confronted with these charges.
The Act of Fleeing: Definition and Legal Boundaries
Fleeing or evading police in a motor vehicle is legally characterized as the failure to halt your vehicle despite being actively pursued by a law enforcement officer who is giving you a visual or audible signal to pull over or stop.
This act is a criminal offence according to Section 249.1(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states, “Every one commits an offence who, operating a motor vehicle while being pursued by a peace officer operating a motor vehicle, fails, without reasonable excuse and in order to evade the peace officer, to stop the vehicle as soon as is reasonable in the circumstances.”
This violation is deemed significantly more serious than a typical driving infraction because it involves the willful or intentional disregard of a command from a police officer and a threat to public safety.
Legal Repercussions of Fleeing Police
Evading arrest by failing to stop for a peace officer while operating a motor vehicle can lead to serious criminal charges, with the severity varying based on the evasion’s specifics. Under subsection 249.1(2) of the Criminal Code, offenders can be charged either with an indictable offence, facing up to five years in prison, or an offence punishable on summary conviction. If the evasion leads to bodily harm, offenders may be sentenced up to 14 years in prison. In cases resulting in death, they could face life imprisonment.
The Long-Term Implications
A conviction for fleeing police brings far-reaching consequences, notably a permanent criminal record, which can hinder other aspects of your life, such as securing employment and international travel, not to mention the social stigma. Because there are so many far-reaching consequences, it is important for individuals charged with such a criminal offense to seek out the support of a driving offence lawyer to protect their rights, reputation, and future.
Defending Against Charges of Fleeing or Evading Police
Formulating a defence strategy against charges of fleeing from police requires a nuanced approach.
One common strategy is to demonstrate a lack of intent to evade arrest. This can involve showing that the accused did not willfully ignore the officer’s commands but rather did not understand them due to various factors, such as environmental conditions.
Another approach is to argue a misunderstanding of the officer’s vehicle signals. This might include situations where the driver did not recognize the signals as being directed towards them, or perhaps mistook them for another vehicle. The defence may bring attention to mitigating factors like the driver’s mental state at the time of the incident, which might have affected their judgment or comprehension of the situation.
Cases of mistaken identity can also form part of the defence, especially in scenarios where the identification of the driver is ambiguous. An experienced criminal defense lawyer plays a pivotal role in these situations, examining the evidence, cross-referencing witness statements, and challenging the prosecution’s narrative to cast doubt on the accused’s identity as the driver.
The Value of Tailored Legal Guidance
At Jaswal & Krueger, we believe in providing personalized legal services tailored to each individual’s unique circumstances, especially for those accused of fleeing from police. Our team of experienced criminal lawyers have deep insights into the nuances of these complex cases.