April 27, 2000
FLEEING BY VEHICLE FROM POLICE PURSUIT
By: Benjamin H. Hardy, Research Analyst
You wanted to know the current penalty for a person who flees by car from police pursuit, whether it has changed recently, and its enforcement history.
Beginning this year, the crime of speeding up to elude police pursuit changed to a class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a class D felony for subsequent offenses. It had been an unclassified misdemeanor, but it required minimum fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for any subsequent offense. The new law does not mandate minimum fines. As before, an offender's license is suspended for one year for a first offense and 18 months to two years for a subsequent offense, but the motor vehicles commissioner may restore it earlier if the offender can show compelling mitigating circumstances.
The new penalties are more severe if an offender causes death or serious physical injury.
Not enough time has passed for a meaningful evaluation of enforcement under the new penalties. Under the prior law, there were some 600 cases with about 150 convictions during each of the past several years.
Public Act 99-171 amended CGS § 14-223(b) to (1) eliminate the minimum fines for speeding in an attempt to elude police, which had been $500 or a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses; (2) increase the penalty for causing death or serious physical injury while speeding to elude the police, and (3) require people convicted of two or more offenses causing death or serious physical injuries to serve at least one year in prison. The change took effect January 1, 2000.
By law, it is a violation to increase a vehicle's speed in an attempt to escape apprehension by a police officer in a vehicle using an audible signal device or flashing or revolving lights. Under prior law, a first offense was an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 to $2,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. For subsequent offenses, the penalty was a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, imprisonment for one to five years, or both.
Public Act 99-171 makes a first violation a class A misdemeanor, thus eliminating the $500 minimum fine and imposing a definite sentence of imprisonment for up to a year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. It makes any subsequent violation, or a first violation that causes death or serious physical injury, a class D felony, which carries a definite sentence of imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The change eliminates the $1,000 minimum fine for subsequent violations.
Under the new penalties, if an offender causes death or serious physical injury in more than one violation, the court must impose at least a one-year mandatory sentence. By law, a serious physical injury creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious disfigurement, impairment of health, or loss or impairment of the function of a bodily organ.
According to Greg Pac of the Judicial Department, in FY 1996-97 there were 624 cases resulting in 158 convictions, and in FY 1997-98, 656 cases and 157 convictions. Data for FY 1998-99 have not been finally tabulated but he believes they will be similar to those for the prior years. No data are available yet for the period since the penalties changed on January 1, 2000.