Have you ever been driving on a long stretch of highway, and your mind just started wandering as you watch what seems like an endless line of pavement and fields in front of you? Suddenly, you notice a state trooper vehicle is behind you with lights flashing. You pull over, and the trooper tells you that she’s been signaling to you to pull over for several minutes. Before you know it, you’re being charged with eluding a law enforcement officer.
Essentially, eluding means failing to comply with a police officer’s order while you’re driving. That may mean that a police officer either visibly or audibly signaled you to stop your car, and you didn’t do it. A visible or audible signal could include flashing the police cruiser’s lights or using its siren to let you know to pull over and stop. Eluding also can mean that you failed to obey the orders of an officer who is directing traffic.
An eluding charge in Ohio can be very serious. The possible long-term consequences of an eluding conviction can include:
- A jail or prison sentence
- Expensive fines
- Loss of your driver’s license — possibly for life
- Six (6) points on your driver’s license
- Loss of your commercial driver’s license
- A permanent criminal record that could affect your ability to find or keep a job
- More expensive car insurance premiums
However, it may be possible to avoid some or all of those consequences with the help of an experienced Ohio traffic defense lawyer. A lawyer may be able to help you fight the charge and get your eluding case dismissed, or get your charge or penalties reduced.
Penalties for an Ohio Eluding Conviction
Under Ohio Rev. Code 2921.331, eluding can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of your offense.
Eluding is a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 when you are convicted of:
- Failing to comply with the order or direction of an officer who has the authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic
- You willfully elude or flee from an officer who signals to you to stop your vehicle
Eluding can be a 4th degree felony punishable by 6 to 18 months of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000 when your eluding charge involved fleeing immediately after committing a felony.
An eluding conviction can be a 3rd degree felony punishable by 9 to 36 months of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000 when cause serious physical harm to people or property while eluding or fleeing, or you caused a substantial risk of serious physical harm to people or property.
Drivers License Suspension
In addition to jail or prison time, you face a driver’s license suspension if you’re convicted of eluding or fleeing in Ohio. The suspension period you face will depend on whether your eluding charge is a misdemeanor or felony, and whether you have any prior eluding convictions.
- Misdemeanor Eluding — For a first conviction of misdemeanor eluding, your license will be suspended for 6 months to 3 years. You may be able to get limited driving privileges during your suspension period.
- Felony Eluding — For a first conviction of felony eluding, your license will be suspended for 3 years to life. Limited driving privileges are not permitted under Ohio law when you are convicted of felony eluding, and you have to serve at least 3 years of your driver’s license suspension.
- Prior Eluding Conviction — If you have any type of prior conviction for eluding, your driver’s license is suspended for life. A court is not permitted to suspend any portion of that suspension, and there is no option for limited driving privileges.
Defending Your Cincinnati Eluding Charge
If you’ve been charged with eluding in Cincinnati or the surrounding area, you may be feeling fear and uncertainty. You may wonder what’s going to happen to you, and worry that you might be convicted for something that was just a simple mistake.
You may actually have a number of options for fighting your eluding or fleeing charge with the help of a good Cincinnati traffic defense lawyer. For example, you may have a defense to an eluding charge if you can demonstrate that you didn’t know the officer had signaled to you to stop. In order to convict you of eluding, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly and willfully disobeyed an officer’s direction. But what if you didn’t see the officer?
There’s a psychological phenomenon called “inattention blindness” in which it’s common for people who are focused on one task to simply fail to see something else that crosses their field of vision. One classic experiment involved having people count how many times someone passed a basketball, and then having someone else walk through the room in a gorilla suit. The person who was doing the counting was paying attention to the basketball and completely failed to perceive the gorilla — something so unusual that you would expect someone to notice.
If your attention is focused on the road — as it should be when you’re driving — it may be possible that you don’t notice flashing lights behind you. You may be the victim of inattention blindness. However, if you don’t immediately respond to the officer’s signal to pull over, you can be charged with eluding.
That’s just one example of a possible argument that a skilled Ohio traffic defense attorney could make in an eluding case. Every case is unique, and the defense strategy that might work for you will depend on the circumstances of your charge, and the facts and evidence being used against you. Call a Cincinnati defense lawyer today if you want to know your options for fighting your Ohio eluding charge.