In Virginia, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for eluding law enforcement officers, depending on the circumstances of the incident. In court, it may be your word against the officer's, so hiring an attorney with extensive courtroom experience is the best way to protect your freedom.
Failure to Stop
If a law enforcement officer signals you to stop and you simply continue driving, you may be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor. The Commonwealth must show that you had a "willful and wanton disregard" of the signal. You may also be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor if you stop the vehicle and attempt to elude officers on foot or by other means. If convicted, you face up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a 30-day suspension of your driver's license.
Endangering and Eluding
A more serious offense is endangering the life of another person or the operation of a law enforcement vehicle while eluding. This happens when law enforcement signals you to stop and you continue to drive recklessly. You can be charged with this offense even if your reckless driving only endangers yourself.
Virginia law defines "reckless driving" as operating a motor vehicle "at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person." You can be charged with both reckless driving and eluding.
This is a Class 6 Felony, and you may face one to five years in prison, a $2,500 fine, and a one-year driver's license revocation.
Loss of Life
The most serious eluding offense occurs when a law enforcement officer signals you to stop, you continue to drive recklessly, and a law enforcement officer is killed in the pursuit. This is a Class 4 Felony, which carries two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
Have You Been Charged with Eluding in Virginia?
Although Virginia law has harsh penalties for eluding police, an experienced defense attorney can prove to the judge or the jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that your actions during the incident were not eluding.
One defense for eluding is that you did not receive the officer's visible or audible signal to stop. In some circumstances, a reasonable person would not be able to see or hear the lights or sirens.
Another defense is that you did not believe the person behind you was a law enforcement officer. The news has stories of people impersonating law enforcement officers to harm unsuspecting motorists. If you believed the person behind you was not a law enforcement officer and you were afraid to stop until you reached someplace safe, your defense attorney can prove to the judge or jury that you are not guilty of eluding.