Riviera Beach Police recently arrested two people after a simple traffic stop turned into a low-speed chase.
A male driver allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign. When police attempted to pull him over, he continued driving, running several more stop signs and making an improper U-Turn. The driver then allegedly came to a stop, jumped out of the car, and attempted to run from the police. The Riviera Beach police tased the driver and handcuffed him. The police discovered that the driver’s license was suspended. While they were placing him under arrest, a woman (presumably the passenger) jumped into the driver’s seat and drove off in the car while pointing and laughing at the officers. The police officers had to chase the woman, eventually stopping her and placing her under arrest as well.
After being examined by medics as a result of the tasing, the man was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail and charged with fleeing and eluding, resisting arrest with violence, and driving with a suspended license. The man has since been released on $13,000 bond. The woman was also taken to the Palm Beach County Jail and was charged with aiding prisoner escape, evidence tampering, and failure to obey a law enforcement command. She remains in Palm Beach County Jail.
Interestingly, an incident that could possible have remained a simple traffic stop for failing to stop at a stop sign, resulting in a traffic ticket or potentially a misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license, turned into a felony case as a result of the actions of the driver (and passenger). Instead of facing a misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license, punishable by up to 60 days in county jail for a first conviction, the felony charges the two arrestees are now facing are as follows:
1) Fleeing and Eluding: Fleeing and eluding is codified under Florida Statute 316.1935, which makes it illegal for a driver to continue driving after being ordered to stop by a police officer. It is a third degree felony in Florida to flee from or elude the police, and is punishable by up to five years in Florida State prison, in addition to driver’s license suspension, vehicle forfeiture, and an adjudication of guilt, meaning that the driver would be a convicted felon.
2) Resisting With Violence: Resisting arrest with violence is codified under Florida Statute 843.01, which makes it illegal for a person to resist an officer by doing violence to the officer. It is a third degree felony in Florida to resist a police officer with violence, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.
3) Aiding Escape: Aiding prisoner escape is codified under Florida State 843.12, which state that it is illegal for a person to knowingly assist a person in escaping or attempting to escape a police officer. Aiding prisoner escape is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.
4) Tampering with Evidence: Tampering evidence is also a third degree felony, found under Florida Statute 918.13, and is punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.
It is easy to see that traffic stops have the potential of turning into a giant mess if the person being stopped attempts to flee. Running from the police only makes the situation much worse, and felony charges are serious and have serious potential consequences in the State of Florida. That is why it is important for anyone who is being pulled over for a traffic stop to stay calm, obey orders, and understand the law as well as his or her rights.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.