Charged with Eluding Police in Morris County?
If you have ever been pulled over, you know that feeling. Your stomach sinks as you glance in the rearview mirror blasted with blue and red flashing lights, probably followed by a siren if you have not noticed the lights soon enough. Maybe you know what you did, but maybe you do not. Either way, if you do not pull over when a police officer commands you to by their lights, siren, or other clear signals, you could be breaking the law. Eluding the police can be charged as a third degree crime in New Jersey, but it can also be charged as a second degree crime depending on the circumstances. The severity of the risk posed to others and the intention of the person eluding the police determines how the crime is charged. The range subsumed under the eluding statute covers anything from a delayed reaction, to pulling over when police signal you to do so, to a high-speed car chase. Whether you are charged for a third or second degree crime, you are looking at significant fines and prison terms. And yet, it is not uncommon to fall into the trap of committing the crime of eluding an officer and violating N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2, over a simple mistake or panic reaction.
Need a Top Morristown Lawyer for Eluding Charges
Given how easy it is to commit this crime, knowingly or unknowingly, and the seriousness of the consequences, you should not hesitate about getting the best legal advice and representation for your eluding charges. A talented defense lawyer can convince the prosecuting attorney and the judge that your intentions were not to escape the police, which helps to lessen the charge, prison time and fees, or get the case dismissed completely in some cases. If possible, you want to avoid a criminal record, which is an unfortunate consequence of conviction. Contact our New Jersey eluding lawyer if you need help defending an eluding case in Morris County, NJ, including in Morristown, Parsippany, Boonton, Rockaway, East Hanover, Roxbury, and Mount Olive. Here is some crucial information that you need to know if you are facing eluding charges in New Jersey.
Meaning of Eluding in New Jersey
The core of the offense of eluding police is not stopping when signaled to stop by a law enforcement officer. N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 is the eluding statute that describes how you can be guilty of this crime. You commit a fourth degree crime when you try to evade an arrest. However, it is a third degree crime to flee an officer while operating a vehicle on the roadways or a vessel on the waterways when the officer clearly indicates they want you to stop, say, by a siren, lights, announcement, wave of the arm, or any combination of those. Further, it is a second degree crime if the escape from arrest creates a safety risk for others.
How much time do you get for Eluding an Officer in NJ?
If you are arrested for driving on any road in the state of New Jersey and do not stop, you may be charged with a third degree crime and face three (3) to five (5) years in prison and up to $15,000.00 in fines. If you kept driving on a major highway going 50 to 65 miles an hour after a police car behind you turned on their lights, risking injury to the officer or anyone else, you may be charged with second degree eluding the police. And if the police must get you to stop by pulling alongside your car, commanding you to pull over by megaphone or loudspeaker, even trying to force you to the side of the road, your eluding arrest arguably distracts other drivers on the road and so, risks the police officer’s life as well as others’. If convicted of a second degree crime, you face five (5) to ten (10) years in prison and up to $150,000.00 in fines.
In addition, your license will be suspended or revoked for six months to two years for eluding the police. A driver under the age of 18 may likewise have their license suspended, revoked, or delayed (if they have no license) pending the completion of the suspension or delay period.
What if You Didn’t Know You Failed to Stop when Signaled by an Officer?
You may not even have even understood that the police were trying to pull you over, as you did not think you committed any infractions. For example, you may be driving with your friend, enjoying a conversation, but not realizing that you passed a sign that prohibits making a left turn at the light. After making the forbidden left turn, you see a police car with flashing lights, so you slowly move over to the right but keep the car going in slow motion until the police car passes. Much to your surprise, the police car pulls up to your side angrily shouting at you to pull over and stop the car. You may be suspected and charged with eluding the police, even without the notorious high-speed chase. It is also not uncommon for some people, especially the elderly, to be confused and panicked when they see the lights and sirens behind them, and they simply do not react properly or in time to pull over and stop their car.
Defending N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2 Eluding Charges
No doubt, evading police is serious, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the evidence against you and cast doubt on some of the elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of this crime or any of its related crimes. For example, if you did not intend to elude the police but were confused or mistaken as to whether the police were signaling you to stop, you may not be guilty of eluding. In addition, the police may not have clearly signaled for you to pull over, turning on their lights only after you were out of range.
Since intent and risk of harm are key components to the crime of eluding, your attorney can convince the prosecuting attorney that the facts show you did not intend to elude the police; for example, you failed to stop because you were confused, mistaken, or panicked, and no one was harmed. As such, they may be able to convince the prosecuting attorney to lower the charges from a second degree to a third or fourth degree charge or even a disorderly persons offense, if not outright dismissing the charges by showing the prosecutor or the court the weaknesses of the case. The prosecutor must convince a jury that beyond a reasonable doubt you intended to commit the charged crime. It is a tough burden of proof and the case should be challenged at every turn.
Your attorney can also help you apply for the first-time offender’s diversionary program, the Pre-Trial Intervention Program if the charges are reduced from a second degree to a third or fourth degree crime, so that you may avoid a conviction on your record after completing it. Finally, your attorney may also be successful in securing a plea bargain to lesser charges in exchange for your guilty plea.
Dedicated NJ Defense Attorneys for Eluding Charges
Since the stakes are extremely high, be sure to find a top criminal lawyer to defend you. Contact us for a free consultation.