Fleeing to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer

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Before someone can be convicted of the crime of aggravated fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer, the prosecutor must prove the following four things beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused person was operating a vehicle upon a street or highway in Florida;
  2. The accused, knowing he had been directed to stop by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, either
    a.
    willfully refused or failed to stop the vehicle in compliance with the order; or
    b. having stopped the vehicle, willfully fled in a vehicle in an attempt to elude the officer;
  3. The law enforcement officer was in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle and with siren and lights activated; and
  4. During the course of the fleeing or the attempt to elude, the accused drove at high speed or in any manner demonstrating a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

In the case of Steil v. State of Florida, the arresting officer testified at trial that while he had arrested Mr. Steil for reckless driving, he had not actually clocked his speed. Nor did the officer observe any other traffic affected by Steil's driving. On appeal, Steil argued that the trial judge should have found him not guilty of aggravated fleeing and eluding because he was not driving at a “high speed” nor was he driving with a “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

The court of appeals noted that the crime of aggravated fleeing requires that the pursuing officer have his lights and sirens on; however, in this particular case the officer testified that he did not have them on during most of the pursuit. The appellate court therefore ruled that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence of “high speed” or “wanton disregard” during the time that the lights and siren were activated on the patrol car to support Steil's conviction for aggravated fleeing and eluding.

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