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North Carolina Criminal Law 20-141.5(a): Misdemeanor Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest
The crime of Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest (sometimes referred to as Flee to Elude Arrest) under North Carolina Criminal Law 20-141.5 can be either a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense, depending on the nature and circumstances of the allegations.
Generally, the offense is characterized by the defendant fleeing to avoid an arrest or apprehension by a law enforcement officer in the official performance of their duties.
While related, Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest / Flee to Elude is a separate and distinct criminal charge in North Carolina from Resist Obstruct, Resisting Arrest, and Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren.
The offense is specifically set forth in § 20-141.5. Speeding to elude arrest; seizure and sale of vehicles of Chapter 20 “Motor Vehicles – Article 1” Division of Motor Vehicles (NC DMV).
To prove a defendant committed the crime of Misdemeanor Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest, the Prosecutor bears the burden of making a prima facia showing of the following elements of the offense:
- The Defendant was driving a motor vehicle
- The Defendant fled or tried to flee
- A law enforcement officer who was trying to apprehend or arrest the defendant
A person is considered to be “fleeing to elude” if they are aware that a law enforcement officer is trying to stop or apprehend them or reasonable should have known the law enforcement officer is attempting to arrest or stop them, and intentionally tries to get away.
Speeding to elude arrest, under subsection (b) of NC Motor Vehicle Law 20-141.5 authorizes criminal prosecution as a Class H felony if two or more aggravating factors are part of the Fleeing to Elude Arrest. If a violation of subsection (b) is deemed the proximate cause of death of another, the State may prosecute as a Class E Felony.2. Examples of Misdemeanor Fleeing to Elude Arrest
Defendant sees a highway patrolman pull behind their vehicle on I-485 in Mecklenburg County. The State Trooper’s marked patrol vehicle had its “emergency equipment” activated, including flashing blue lights, strobes, and siren sounding. Instead of pulling over to the shoulder, the Defendant continues driving and never stops for the officer. The Defendant may be charged with Misdemeanor Fleeing to Elude Arrest, a Class I Misdemeanor offense.
The owner of a vehicle, not the Defendant, has an active warrant for arrest in Charlotte. Before loaning his car to the Defendant he says, “Be careful. I have warrants out. I missed court and DMV revoked my license.” The owner missed court in Monroe for Driving While License Revoked (DWLR), DWI charges, and therefore has an outstanding Order for Arrest or “OFA” for failing to appear in court in Union County NC. While traveling on I-85 near the Mecklenburg County and Gaston County line, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer runs the vehicle tag and notices the outstanding Order for Arrest, Warrant, and license suspension by NC DMV for DWLR Impaired Revocation. The CMPD officer attempts to pull the Defendant over to investigate whether the driver is the person with outstanding OFA and driving with a suspended license. The Defendant knows his license is valid. He also knows he has not broken the law in any way and therefore doesn’t pull over, thinking, “He doesn’t have Probable Cause to Stop me.” The Defendant may be arrested for Fleeing to Elude Arrest, as Class I misdemeanor charge in North Carolina that is subject to up to 120 days of incarceration.3. Related Offenses
Other related crimes offenses include:
- Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren
- Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle
- Felony Death by Vehicle
- Hit and Run Charges
- Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest – Jury Instruction
- Felony and Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle in NC
Defenses may include:
- Lack of Knowledge
- Lack of Reasonable Grounds to know the Officer is a Law Enforcement Officer
- Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
- Mistake of Fact
- Officer not acting within Official Capacity
Under North Carolina Criminal Law 20-141.5(a), Misdemeanor Fleeing to Elude Arrest is a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense, allowing for a maximum period of up to 120 days in jail.
Conviction of Misdemeanor Fleeing to Elude Arrest can also result in the suspension of your NC DMV Driver’s License.
Aggravating Factors may include things like:
- Speeding 15+ mph over the limit
- DWI - Gross Impairment at the time of the offense
- a. Impairing Substance OR
- b. .14 BAC or more
- Negligent driving leading to the death of another
- Reckless driving
- Driving leading to an accident resulting in personal injury or property damage more than $1,000
- Driving While License Revoked (DWLR)
- Stopped school bus violation
- Driving with a minor under the age 12 in the car
- Driving over the speed limit in a school or work zone during effective hours
If you have been charged or arrested for Misdemeanor Operating a Motor Vehicle to Elude Arrest, we strongly recommend you immediately seek legal counsel. Our team of Charlotte criminal lawyers provide legal advice regarding the effects on your NC DMV license, insurance points, and the possibility of a criminal conviction.
Our defense lawyers help people in the Charlotte-Metro region, including criminal charges in Union County NC, Iredell County, Rowan, and Gastonia.
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