Don’t Run From the Police: Unlawful Flight From Police
If you are being pursued by the authorities, regardless of whether you may have broken the law, don’t run from the police. Unlawful flight from police could be punishable by jail or prison time. These punishments would be handed down in addition to the penalties associated with whatever crime the police originally accused you of.
It’s a much better and safer idea to stop for the police and then hire a lawyer to defend you. A criminal defense lawyer can work to protect your rights, no matter how or why the police arrested you.
Why Might the Police Chase You?
It is law enforcement’s job to chase down anyone they believe has committed or is in the process of committing a crime, including:
- Drug offenses
- Sex offenses
- Domestic abuse
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Murder and manslaughter
- Theft or robbery
Sometimes, the police are correct in their judgment of a suspect’s actions, in other words, the suspect really did commit a crime. In other cases, the police make a mistake and end up chasing an innocent person.
Either way, do not run from the police. Doing so constitutes an unlawful flight from police and could give law enforcement another reason to charge and detain you. It could also cement your guilt in their eyes and prompt them to take more severe action against you.
What to Do if Police Chase You
Knowing that the police are after you can be a frightening experience, especially if you have previous convictions on your record. It’s all too easy to start running or driving away the minute the police come into view.
As difficult as it may be to remain calm in these circumstances, doing so could be vital to your future and even your survival. Actions you should take instead of running from the police include:
- Stopping as soon as you realize the police are pursuing you
- Responding to the police respectfully, although you do have the right not to answer a question that may incriminate you
- Keeping your hands where the police can see them at all times if they ask for your driver’s license or something else, move slowly and calmly
- Asking the police if you are free to leave once the interaction has ended
- Not answering any more questions if the police arrest you
At this point, you should state that you are invoking your right to remain silent and will say nothing else without a lawyer present.
What if the Police Let Me Go?
After speaking to you, the police may decide to arrest you or let you go. Do not assume that you are safe just because the police allowed you to leave.
Consider these examples and see if they might apply to your situation:
- The police have already violated your rights, perhaps by searching your car without a warrant or using excessive force.
- The police say that you can leave, but they indicate that you are still a suspect and they may want to speak with you again later.
- You have prior convictions, especially if they are similar to the charge the police just made against you. If you are convicted of the same crime more than once, the penalties can increase exponentially.
While you should not run from the police, you do not have to tolerate abuse or pressure to confess. Even if the police do not arrest you immediately, you could still face serious charges. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer, rather than engaging in unlawful flight from police, is an excellent way to protect yourself.
Always Remember: You Have Rights
Your rights do not diminish or go away just because you have committed a crime (or the police believe you have committed a crime). The police must treat you in accordance with state and federal laws throughout every interaction.
If the police ever fail to respect your rights, the court may refuse to accept some or all of their case. Part of a defense attorney’s job is to review the police’s actions and make sure they behaved lawfully at all times. This process protects your rights and lets the police know they cannot get away with abusing suspects.
If Police Catch You Running From Them
Not only does fleeing from the police make you look guilty (even if you are not), but it may also constitute a crime in and of itself. Therefore, you could face additional penalties for unlawful flight from police on top of whatever penalties you incur from your other alleged crimes.
Penalties for running from police may include:
- Jail time: Spending time behind bars could wreak havoc on your career and your mental health. It would also take you away from family, friends, and loved ones.
- Fines: The judge may levy a fine instead of or in addition to jail time. Even a relatively small fine could jeopardize your financial security, especially if the court also fines you for the crime that caused the police to pursue you.
- Reimbursing the police for the cost of catching you: In addition to fines imposed by the law, a judge may order you to pay back the police for the time and resources they used in chasing you down.
In extreme cases, running away could cause the police to use deadly force (such as shooting at you or your vehicle) to get you to stop. You could end up with serious or even fatal injuries.
How the Police Handle Suspected Criminals
When the police suspect someone of a crime, they may decide how to treat that suspect based on:
- Immediate danger: Is there a chance the suspect may have a weapon or intends to hurt themselves or others?
- What they know about the suspect: Are the police familiar with the suspect? Does the suspect have a history of dangerous behavior or fleeing from the police?
- The seriousness of the alleged crime: Has the suspect allegedly committed a violent crime, such as murder, or a nonviolent crime, like buying illegal drugs?
Unfortunately, how the police treat suspects varies widely, and the reasons for this variance do not only depend on the nature of their crimes. As the Harvard Gazette recently reported, racial bias has always tainted law enforcement’s mission “to protect and serve.”
You need to do what you can to end your confrontation with the police as quickly and peacefully as possible. This way, you can move on to the next step of hiring a criminal defense attorney to protect you and your rights.
A Lawyer Can Protect You From the Police
Contacting a criminal defense attorney is the most important thing you can do for yourself if the police accuse you of any crime. Your attorney can:
Advise You of Your Rights
You cannot protect your rights if you do not understand them. Criminal defense law firms devote themselves to educating clients about how to behave around the police and other law enforcement representatives.
The sooner you can contact an attorney after interacting with the police, the better.
By doing so:
- You will give your lawyer more time to learn about your case and figure out the best way to defend you
- The police will have less time to try to coerce a confession out of you or otherwise violate your rights
- Evidence both for and against you will still be “fresh” and therefore easier for your lawyer to find
- You could benefit from your attorney’s advice about what to say and how to say it, as well as what decisions to make if you are presented with multiple options (e.g., a plea deal versus going to court)
Does this mean you should not bother hiring a lawyer if your case is already in progress? Absolutely not. It’s never too late to hire a criminal defense attorney to advocate for you.
If you do hire a lawyer later in the process (for example, if you have to fire your first attorney for unsatisfactory service), tell them honestly about what has happened so far and why you chose to hire them now. The more they know, the better defense they can build.
Protect You During Police Interactions
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no citizen can “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” You may know this better as the “right to remain silent” or “taking the Fifth.”
As soon as the police arrest you, invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.
Once your lawyer arrives, speak honestly with them about everything, including:
- Your understanding of the charges made against you
- Whether or not you committed (or may have committed) the crime that the police arrested you for
- What you said to the police before your lawyer arrived
- How the police have treated you throughout your encounters
This information helps tell your lawyer how best to protect you.
They can insist on being present when the police interrogate you, stop you from answering incriminating questions, and stop the police from asking illegal questions or using illegal methods, such as:
- Searching your property without a warrant
- Using undue force while pursuing or arresting you
- Misleading you about what your rights are or how to exercise them
- Failing to follow proper procedure
Investigate the Incident
After discussing your case with you, your criminal defense attorney can start investigating both the alleged crime and your alleged role in that crime.
Their investigation may include:
- Requesting copies of whatever materials the police have gathered against you, such as police reports or Breathalyzer tests
- Interviewing witnesses about what they saw and heard
- Finding photographic or video evidence of the alleged crime(s)
- Taking your testimony about what happened
- Visiting the alleged crime scene
They can also contact the prosecuting attorney to find out what evidence they have collected against you. The defense and the prosecution are allowed to exchange and discuss all evidence. This process, known as “discovery,” makes it easier for your lawyer to familiarize themselves with the situation you now face.
Decide How to Handle Your Case
Your case may go in one (or more) of several directions, depending on your criminal defense lawyer’s advice and the evidence they can find.
For example, your attorney might:
- Try to get the charges dropped: If your lawyer finds evidence of your innocence and/or police misconduct, the prosecution may realize they have no chance of winning in court and agree to drop all charges.
- Try to get the charges reduced: Sometimes, the prosecution may agree to lower the charges against you. Even if you are convicted, your punishment will be less onerous than if the court had convicted you of the original charge.
- Negotiate for a plea deal: In a plea deal, you would agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge. This guarantees the prosecution a conviction, and in exchange, you would avoid a potentially lengthy trial and more serious penalties.
- Represent you in court: If your lawyer does not think orchestrating a deal is in your best interest, they can take your case to trial. This may entail questioning witnesses, submitting evidence, and determining whether or not you should take the stand.
Only you and your lawyer can decide which of these options is best for you. Making these decisions with an attorney’s help is much less stressful than trying to make them on your own. Their knowledge, experience, and support can guide you throughout the entire legal process.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help With Unlawful Flight Charges
If you run from the police, you could make your situation much worse for yourself. Instead of engaging in an unlawful flight from police, you have the right to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend you against whatever charges the police have made.
Criminal defense attorneys can protect clients against charges of all kinds, including unlawful flight. Don’t take matters into your own hands reach out to a criminal defense lawyer today.