So, today’s blog is to go through and explain how North Carolina handles Speeding to Elude charges. There have been a rash of these type of cases lately, and some fatalities as a result of individuals attempting to elude police. Obviously, our recommendation is never to run from police who are effectuating a legal traffic stop. This blog will explain some of the more interesting aspects of it that many people may not be aware of and hopefully educate the public about how serious this charge can be.
The law controlling speeding to elude is North Carolina General Statute 20-141.5. This law encompasses both the misdemeanor and felony version of this law. The bare bones of the law is laid out in subsection (a) “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on a street, highway or public vehicular area while fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer who is in the lawful performance of his duties.” At a minimum, under these elements, anyone who attempts to flee from police while they are performing their lawful duties is risking a class 1 misdemeanor.
The speeding to elude law goes on to explain under what circumstances fleeing from police can elevate the charge to a felony. If the driver, in attempting to evade police, commit two or more ‘aggravating’ factors laid out in the statute, at a minimum, would face a class H felony. The aggravating factors are as follows:
- Speeding in excess of 15 miles per hour over the legal speed limit
- Gross impairment of the person’s faculties while driving due to:
- Consumption of an impairing substance; or
- A blood alcohol concentration of .14 or more within the relevant time after the driving
- Reckless driving as proscribed by N.C.G.S. 20-140
- Negligent driving leading to an accident causing:
- Property damage in excess of one thousand dollars or
- Personal injury
- Driving while the person’s drivers license is revoked
- Driving in excess of the posted speed limit, during the days and hours when the posted limit is in effect, on school property or in an area designated as a school zone pursuant to N.C.G.S. 20-141.1, or in a highway work zone as defined in N.C.G.S. 20-141(j2)
- Driving with a child under 12 years of age in the vehicle.
Now, that is a lot of information to take in. Our criminal law division of Matheson & Associates PLLC spends a considerable amount of time instructing our clients on the aggravating factors involved, which are very unique circumstances that don’t come up as often. For instance, having a passenger under the age of 12 or speeding through a work zone or school zone. But the more important areas to focus on are: 1. Speeding in excess of 15 MPH, 2. Reckless driving, and 3. Negligent driving leading to an accident. Under most circumstances, an individual attempting to flee the police will drive in excess of 15 MPH. Additionally, many can and do cause an accident, which includes personal injury or property damage in excess of $1000 (note that can include damage to your own vehicle). Additionally, the ‘reckless driving’ statute is written very subjectively, only requiring a driver to drive “carelessly” in “willful disregard of the rights or safety of others” or “without due caution” and “at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger any person or property.” Again, anyone attempting to flee the police are likely to drive in a manner that could be described by the language in that statute. I say all of that to say, if you are fleeing police, you are likely doing it in a ‘felonious’ manner, as far as the law is concerned.
So, what does that mean? Well, first, if convicted of Felony Fleeing to Elude, you will lose your car. There are some exceptions for ‘innocent owners’ but otherwise, that car now belongs to the State. Second, your license will be suspended for one year under the misdemeanor, two years under the felony version if there are only two aggravating factors, and three years if there are three or more aggravating factors. A driver convicted of the felony, with only two aggravating factors can apply for a Limited Driving Privilege after the first 12-months of the two year suspension. The way the statute is written, there are no Limited Driving Privilege options for those convicted under the Misdemeanor or with three or more aggravating factors.
Lastly, it’s important to note that individuals speeding to elude or running from police who are the proximate cause of the death of any person would be sentenced as a Class E felony. A Class E felony can carry up to 31-47 months in prison for a first offense.
So, as you can see, this law is written as a very strong deterrent against running from the police. From the ease at which this becomes a felony, to the possible loss of your vehicle and license suspension for a minimum of a year, the consequences are severe.