Man Fled from Police Due to “Having a Bad Day”

November 21, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

When a police officer signals their sirens or lights behind a driver, it is the universal sign to pull over. However, not every driver complies with this traffic law. When a person attempts to outrun the police in a vehicle, they can be charged with fleeing to elude an officer in Florida.

One recent case shows the outcome of a driver who blamed a “bad day” on resisting to pull over, resulting in criminal charges. This article will give details from the case, along with information on fleeing to elude in Florida.

What was the Incident?

On November 16th, Ronald Anthony Bennet, 20, was driving southbound on U.S. 1 around 9 pm. According to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Adam Linhardt, Bennet was driving 71mph in a 45mph zone.

According to the report, an MCSO officer attempted to pull over Bennett when he reached Mile Marker 90, but the suspect instead increased his speed. Bennett continued to increase his speed and fled from the officer.

Linhardt reported that Bennett finally stopped after turning onto Woods Avenue and Gardenia Street. The deputy who caught up to Bennett questioned his actions, to which the defendant responded that he was “having a bad day.”

Bennett was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding an officer.

Fleeing to Elude in Florida

Florida Statute section 316.1935 explains that it is unlawful for any person to willfully refuse to stop or fail to stop when ordered by a duly authorized law enforcement officer. A person accused of violating this law can be charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

Any person who willfully flees or attempts to elude an officer in an authorized patrol vehicle, with agency and insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with lights and siren activated, can be charged with a third-degree felony of fleeing to elude. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

If the defendant was accused of driving at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property in the commission of fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, it is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

For the State to prosecute a person accused of fleeing to elude, they must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant was operating a motor vehicle on a Florida street or highway;
  • An official law enforcement officer ordered the defendant to stop or pull over; and
  • The defendant was told to stop and either:
    • Refused to stop or did not stop the vehicle; or
    • Stopped the vehicle but fled after to attempt a getaway.

Aggravated Fleeing to Elude

Florida law explains that any person who unlawfully leaves or attempts to leave the scene of a crash involving the death or personal injuries of a person, that has the knowledge of an order to stop by a law enforcement officer, willfully refuses to stop in compliance with such an order, or having stopped to comply with the order but then willfully flees to elude an officer can be charged with aggravated fleeing or eluding if as a result of their fleeing or eluding:

  1. Another person or property is injured or damaged, or
  2. Another person is caused serious bodily injury or death, including the police officer pursuing the offender.

Fleeing to elude charges can be enhanced to aggravated fleeing to elude, depending on the nature of the offense and having different repercussions based on the severity of them. Florida Statute section 316.1935 explains that if the commission or attempted commission of fleeing to elude results in the injury of another person or causes damage to any property belonging to another person, the perpetrator commits aggravated fleeing or eluding.

Aggravated fleeing to elude can result in a second-degree felony in Florida. The penalty for a second-degree felony includes up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

If in the commission of fleeing to elude another person is seriously injured or killed, it is considered aggravated fleeing to elude with serious bodily injury or death. This can include any law enforcement officer involved in pursuing or attempting to stop the person’s vehicle. This type of violation is considered a first-degree felony in Florida. A first-degree felony in Florida has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Florida law states that either of the aggravated fleeing to elude convictions results in a mandatory minimum sentence of three years imprisonment.

Habitual Traffic Offender

If a person has been convicted of any of the following criminal traffic offenses three or more times within a five-year period, they may be considered a habitual traffic offender:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter
  • Any felony resulting from the use of a motor vehicle
  • Driving while a license was suspended or revoked
  • Failing to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle crash
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle while disqualified to do so

A habitual traffic offender status can also result from 15 convictions for moving traffic violations under the Florida point system if they are given within five years.

Florida Statute section 322.264 explains that “any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used” counts towards becoming a habitual traffic offender.

Fleeing to elude is considered a felony charge in Florida, and it involves a motor vehicle. That means getting charged with fleeing to elude will count as one of the three strikes a person can receive before getting designated as a habitual traffic offender.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, a person who becomes designated as a habitual traffic offender would result in getting their license suspended for five years. For example, if a person was convicted of fleeing to elude, plus convicted of a DUI and driving with a suspended license within five years of each other, they could have their license revoked and suspended for five years.

Defenses to Fleeing to Elude

Fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer may seem like a difficult charge to defend—especially since the nature of the crime insinuates that it is the officer’s word against yours. However, that does not mean there are no options.

The following is a list of potential defenses to a fleeing to elude charge in Florida:

  • The defendant was not the driver of the vehicle which fled from the police
  • The driver had no intent to flee the police and may have continued driving due to the conditions being unsafe to pull over
  • The defendant was not aware that the police officer was trying to pull them over
  • The officer never turned on their lights or sirens to indicate the driver was being pulled over

To figure out which defense works best for your case, talk with a skilled defense attorney in your area.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you know has been accused of fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer, it is in your best interest to reach out to an experienced defense attorney. Navigating the legal world can be stressful, so it’s important to have the right attorney on your side throughout the entire process.

Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience representing clients across the state of Florida. Our Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys will stand in your corner and fight for your future. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation regarding your case.

Written by Karissa Key

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