Drivers Who Flee Police Face Stiffer Penalty

HARRISBURG: –  State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller reminds motorists that under a change in the law that took effect last fall, drivers who flee from police can be charged with a felony carrying a maximum seven-year prison term under certain circumstances.

“Drivers who flee when directed to stop by a police officer create a dangerous situation for themselves, police officers and others,” Miller said. “The change in the law reflects the seriousness of that action.”

Miller said amendments to the state’s Vehicle Code that took effect in September included a new provision that makes the crime of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer a third-degree felony if the subject is (1) driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, (2) crosses a state line, or (3) “endangers a law enforcement officer or member of the general public due to the driver engaging in a high-speed chase.”

A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A charge of fleeing or attempting to elude that does not meet any of the three criteria listed above is graded as a second-degree misdemeanor.

Miller said police officers in Pennsylvania engaged in 2,215 vehicle pursuits in 2005, the most recent year for which complete data is available. He said 10 fleeing drivers and three persons not involved in the chases were killed in those pursuits.

“The vast majority of the motoring public readily complies with a police officer’s direction to stop and a pursuit never occurs,” Miller said. “I am hopeful that that this change in the law will make motorists think twice before they flee and will reduce the number of pursuits in Pennsylvania.”

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