CrimeScene--450x267Common Crimes

Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.

 

Fleeing or Eluding a Police Officer
(3rd Degree)

Statute: MCL 257.602(a)(3) or MCL 750.479a(3)
Crime Group:
Public Safety
Sentence Class: E
Minimum Sentence: 0 Months
Maximum Sentence1: 60 Months (5 years)
Maximum Fine: $1,000.00
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d 13.6c
Sex Offender Registration Required: No

Statutory Language:

MCL 257.602(a)(3):
(1) A driver of a motor vehicle who is given by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren a visual or audible signal by a police or conservation officer, acting in the lawful performance of his or her duty, directing the driver to bring his or her motor vehicle to a stop shall not willfully fail to obey that direction by increasing the speed of the motor vehicle, extinguishing the lights of the motor vehicle, or otherwise attempting to flee or elude the officer. This subsection does not apply unless the police or conservation officer giving the signal is in uniform and the officer's vehicle is identified as an official police or department of natural resources vehicle.

[...]

(3) Except as provided in subsection (4) or (5), an individual who violates subsection (1) is guilty of third-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both, if 1 or more of the following circumstances apply:
  (a) The violation results in a collision or accident.
  (b) A portion of the violation occurred in an area where the speed limit is 35 miles an hour or less, whether that speed limit is posted or imposed as a matter of law.
  (c) The individual has a prior conviction for fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, attempted fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, or fleeing and eluding under a current or former law of this state prohibiting substantially similar conduct.

[....]

MCL 750.479a(3):
(1) An operator of a motor vehicle or vessel who is given by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren a visual or audible signal by a police or conservation officer, acting in the lawful performance of his or her duty, directing the operator to bring his or her motor vehicle or vessel to a stop shall not willfully fail to obey that direction by increasing the speed of the vehicle or vessel, extinguishing the lights of the vehicle or vessel, or otherwise attempting to flee or elude the police or conservation officer. This subsection does not apply unless the police or conservation officer giving the signal is in uniform and the officer's vehicle or vessel is identified as an official police or department of natural resources vehicle or vessel.

[...]

(3) Except as provided in subsection (4) or (5), an individual who violates subsection (1) is guilty of third-degree fleeing and eluding, a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both, if 1 or more of the following circumstances apply:
  (a) The violation results in a collision or accident.
  (b) For a motor vehicle, a portion of the violation occurred in an area where the speed limit is 35 miles an hour or less, whether that speed limit is posted or imposed as a matter of law or, for a vessel, a portion of the violation occurred in an area designated as “slow--no wake”, “no wake”, or “restricted” whether the area is posted or created by law or administrative rule.
  (c) The individual has a prior conviction for fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, attempted fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, or fleeing and eluding under a current or former law of this state prohibiting substantially similar conduct.

 

Discussion:

In Michigan, when a police officer signals for a driver to stop, they must stop. Failing to stop when directed to do so could mean that individual is guilty of Fleeing and Eluding a police officer.

The prosecution must establish all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant. This means the prosecution must establish that all other reasonable explanations for defendant’s actions have been overcome and all evidence points only to the prosecution’s explanation of the crime. To do so in this case the prosecution must establish:

  • First, that the officer was in uniform and performing his/her lawful duties while they were in inadequately marked law enforcement vehicle;
  • Second, the defendant was driving a motor vehicle;
  • Third, that officer ordered the defendant to stop his/her vehicle;
  • Fourth, the defendant knew of the order;
  • Fifth, the defendant refused to obey the order by trying to flee or avoid being caught; and
  • Sixth, the violation resulted in a collision or an accident or some portion of the violation took place in an area where the speed limit was 35 mph or less or the defendant has prior conviction for Fleeing and Eluding in the fourth-degree, Attempted Fleeing and Eluding in the fourth-degree or Fleeing and Eluding under a Michigan law prohibiting substantially similar conduct.

The most difficult elements for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt are that the defendant knew about the officer’s order, and that the defendant was willfully refusing to obey the order. The language of the statute states that if a defendant has either increased their speed or turned off the vehicle’s lights after an order to to stop, this is considered evidence that the defendant was attempting to flee and elude the officer.

Strangely, there are two statutes under Michigan law by which a person can be charged with this same offense. The statutes contain nearly identical language and cover the exact same offenses. There are significant differences between how the two are treated, however.

A defendant charged under the penal code version of the statute, MCL 750.479a(3), is in a much better position than a defendant charged under the motor vehicle code version of the statute, MCL 257.602(a)(3). This is because statutes like the “Holmes Youthful Trainee Act” (which allows a young defendant have his/her case dismissed after completing probation) and Michigan’s statute on expunging criminal convictions specifically exempt convictions under the motor vehicle code. In other words, if a defendant is convicted under MCL 750.479a(3), then there are ways to avoid having the conviction appear on that person’s record forever, whereas a defendant charged under the motor vehicle code will have a conviction that cannot be removed for any reason. Thus, one of the most important things an attorney can do for a client charged under motor vehicle statute is to convince a prosecutor to amend the charge so that it can be expungeable.

A defendant convicted under this statute will typically be sentenced according to the Michigan sentencing guidelines. Because these guidelines consider both the nature of the current crime and the past record of the defendant—and because the guidelines are “advisory only” and judges are not required to follow them—it is impossible to predict a likely sentence without taking a look at the specific facts of a defendant’s case and reviewing the past record of a defendant, and even then such predictions are an “educated guess” at best.

 

 

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