Eluding an officer, which is generally a third degree charge, can be upgraded to a second degree charge under certain circumstances.
A New Jersey man was recently charged with second degree eluding an officer after he fled from the police in his car. When the police caught up with his vehicle, it was crashed into a parked car on the side of the road, and there was an injured passenger hanging out of the car window. At that time, the accused had fled the scene, but he was later apprehended. The question this case brings forth is why the accused was charged with a second degree crime instead of a third degree crime. What are the circumstances of this particular case that warrant the upgrade?
Under N.J.S.A. 2C: 29-2, an individual is guilty of eluding an officer if that person is:
- driving any kind of a vehicle; and
- the police give that person any kind of signal to pull over; and
- that person either flees or just tries to get away from the police.
Eluding an officer is generally a third degree charge, and if an individual is convicted, will result in a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison. However, the crime may be upgraded to a second degree offense if while eluding the person creates a risk of death or injury to anyone at all, including himself. In this case, the upgrade was clearly warranted because the accused caused a risk of injury to the passenger in his vehicle when he crashed it into the parked car. Additionally, even if there hadn’t been a passenger in the car, because the rule applies when the accused creates a risk of injury to himself, crashing the vehicle into a parked car probably would have been enough to warrant the upgrade even if the accused was the only person in the vehicle.