The offense of fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. The penalty can be up to one year in jail and the court can order the defendant to pay a fine of $2,500. The defendant, however, is eligible for probation.
Fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer is defined under section 11-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. The law says that if a police officer has given a person a visual or audible signal directing him to stop and he willfully fails to obey or refuses to obey such a signal, he is fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.
Any driver or operator of a motor vehicle who, having been given a visual or audible signal by a peace officer directing such driver or operator to bring his vehicle to a stop, willfully fails or refuses to obey such direction, increases his speed, extinguishes his lights, or otherwise flees or attempts to elude the officer. See 625 ILCS 5/11-204.
There are certain circumstances that must be present for the defendant to be found guilty. If the police officer directs a person to stop but is not in a marked police vehicle, then the police officer must be in uniform. On the other hand, if the offense occurs when the police officer is following the defendant in a squad car, then both the oscillating lights and siren must be activated. Presumably, this requirement takes into consideration the fact that sometimes, the motorist may not see or hear the police officer behind him.
A conviction for this offense will cause the Secretary of State to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of six months. However, a second conviction will result in a suspension for one year.
Fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer becomes a felony on the third offense. The third offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in the Department of Corrections and a fine of $25,000.
Fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer is also a felony where any of the following take place:
- the defendant drives more than 20 mph over the speed limit
- the defendant causes bodily injury
- the defendant causes more than $300 in property damage
- or the defendant disregards two or more official traffic control devices (e.g., stop light, stop sign, etc.)
If any of the above occurs, the offense is a Class 4 felony (1-3 years prison). Probation is possible. However, a conviction will cause the defendant’s driver’s license to be revoked.
When the charge is a felony, it is called aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer. A second offense of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer is enhanced to a Class 3 felony, which has a sentencing range of 2-5 years prison.
Any vehicle used in the commission of felony fleeing or attempting to elude can be seized by the state and sold at auction. The process is called forfeiture. In a forfeiture hearing, the State can prevail even if the defendant was found not guilty of the criminal offense. The reason is, a forfeiture proceeding is civil and the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case. Generally, the State only needs to show the vehicle was used in the offense and they win. The State can cause the forfeiture of a vehicle for fleeing and eluding even if it belongs to someone other than the defendant.