What Evidence Is Needed to Convict Someone of Aggravated Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer?

         In the case of Casey Steil versus the State of Florida, Mr. Steil was convicted of the crime of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer based on the following facts:

 

          "At around 4:00 a.m., three officers in a restaurant went outside after hearing there was going   to be a fight in the parking lot. One of the officers held out his hand and yelled 'stop' to [Steil], who made eye contact with the officer, but did not stop his vehicle as he was leaving the parking lot. The officer testified that he was attempting to stop [Steil] in order to determine if he had been involved in the reported disturbance. He had no reason to believe [Steil] may have been involved in a crime.

 

          The officer testified that [Steil] squealed his tires as the car left the parking lot at about fifteen to twenty miles an hour. Another officer in a car followed [Steil], but did not get closer than within a block, and as that officer turned on his siren and blue lights, [Steil] was a block away turning onto another street. When the officer turned onto that street, he turned off his siren. Then, after observing [Steil] run two stop signs, the officer also turned off his blue lights and took a parallel road, thinking [Steil] would come back to U.S. 1. The officer estimated that he was driving fifteen to twenty miles an hour over the thirty-five mile an hour speed limit and [Steil] was driving a little faster. He then again encountered [Steil], saw him run a stop sign with a red flashing light, and [Steil] then stopped at a red light. At that point, the officer activated his blue lights and [Steil] pulled over.  The officer testified that he had arrested [Steil] for reckless driving, but he had not actually clocked [Steil's] speed. Nor did he observe any other vehicles affected by [Steil's] driving."

 

          Steil appealed his conviction to Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal where he argued that while the fleeing or eluding statute prohibits driving at a "high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," no evidence was presented at his trial that he had done either of those things.

 

          The appellate court agreed with Steil for the following reasons:

 

           1.  Aggravated fleeing requires that the pursuing officer has his lights and sirens on.

 

          2.  In this case, the officer testified that he did not have them on during most of the pursuit.

 

          3.  There was insufficient evidence of high speed or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, while the officer's lights and siren were on, to support Steil's conviction for aggravated fleeing.

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