Eluding police in Virginia (Va. Code §46.2-817) is disregarding a police officer’s signal to stop. It is punished with jail, fines, and mandatory driver’s license suspension or revocation. Eluding police in Virginia can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
What is Eluding Police in Virginia?
Eluding police in Virginia occurs when a person fails to stop his car in response to a police officer’s audio or visual signal to stop. The offense can be committed in one of two ways:
- driving a motor vehicle in willful and wanton disregard of a police officer’s audio or visual signal to stop, or
- attempting to escape or elude a police officer after being signaled to pull over (by vehicle, on foot, or by other means).
Proof of Eluding Police in Virginia
To convict an offender of eluding police in Virginia under §46.2-817(A), the Commonwealth must prove that the offender was driving in willful and wanton disregard of a police officer’s signal. This means that the Commonwealth must prove the offender heard the signal or saw the lights, knew the person signaling him to stop was a police officer, and disregarded the signal by continuing to drive. The Commonwealth can also prove this offense with evidence that the offender fled on foot after stopping his vehicle in response to a police officer’s signal.
Penalties for Eluding Police in Virginia
Eluding police in Virginia is a Class 2 misdemeanor. It is punished with up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1000, and driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 30 days up to 12 months. However, if the offender was driving more than 20 miler per hour over the posted speed limit while eluding police, his driver’s license must be suspended for a minimum of 90 days and can be suspended up to 12 months (Va. Code §46.2-817(C)).
When Does Eluding Police in Virginia Become A Felony?
Eluding police in Virginia becomes a felony under Va. Code §46.2-817(B) if the offender, after being signaled by a police officer to pull over, continues to drive in willful and wanton disregard of the police officer’s signal and in doing so interferes with the operation of the police vehicle or endangers the operation of the police vehicle or any person (including himself).
To convict an offender of felony eluding police in Virginia, the Commonwealth must prove not only that the person disregarded a police officer’s signal to stop, but also that he endangered someone. The Commonwealth does not have to prove that any specific person was endangered. This offense is a Class 6 felony, punished with up to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $2500, and driver’s license revocation for 1 year (Va. Code §46.2-817, Va. Code §46.2-389(A)(5)).
Eluding Police Resulting in Death of A Police Officer
If a police officer is killed as a result of pursuing an offender who is eluding police in Virginia, the offense is a Class 4 felony under Va. Code §46.2-817(C). It is punished with 2-10 years in prison, a fine up to $100,000, and driver’s license revocation for one year (Va. Code §46.2-817(C), Va. Code §46.2-389(A)(5), Va. Code §46.2-389(B)).
Difference Between Eluding Police in Virginia and Reckless Driving
Reckless driving in Virginia (Va. Code §46.2-852) is driving recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that endangers the life or property of any person. While eluding police essentially includes reckless behavior as one of the elements of the offense, the driver can still be charged with, and convicted of, reckless driving in addition to a charge of eluding under Va. Code §46.2-817. He can be charged with this additional offense if he was driving recklessly while eluding police or if he drove recklessly and then eluded police.
For more information on reckless driving charges in Virginia, click here.
Eluding Police and Other Crimes
If a driver commits other criminal or traffic offenses in the course of eluding police, he can be charged with and punished for those crimes as well as eluding police in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-817. Many drivers who are charged with eluding police in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-817 are also charged with other motor vehicle or traffic offenses.