Washington Police Pursuit Law Amendments

Washington Police Pursuit Law Amendments

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill on April 22, 2021 that modified the Washington Police Pursuit Law Amendments, aiming to reduce the number of fatalities caused by police chases; this was achieved by imposing restrictions on an officer’s decision to pursue a vehicle.

Under this law, police officers’ engagement threshold was raised from reasonable suspicion to probable cause to pursue a vehicle. Reasonable suspicion is when a police officer suspects that a crime is being committed, was committed, or will be committed. Probable cause requires a reasonable belief or suspicion supported by facts and circumstances, that a person has or is about to commit a crime. The evidence needed for probable cause is stronger than the evidence required for reasonable suspicion, which is the standard needed for police to pursue suspects in specific crimes listed under the revised regulations. If you have any further questions or concerns on what a police officer’s conduct should look like, contact the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer and one of our attorneys will be happy to help.

According to city leaders and law enforcement officials, the bill has had unintended consequences of emboldening criminals to flee crime scenes more frequently. This has resulted in an increase of both crime rates and traffic collisions. These concerns have been raised because the revised regulations have made it more difficult for police officers to engage in high-speed pursuits, potentially creating a sense of impunity among criminals who believe they can elude law enforcement. As a result, amendments have and revisions have been put in place to allow for a reduction in the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths resulting from police pursuits while still ensuring that criminals are held accountable for their actions.

Following the emergence of new concerns, amendments were made in April 2023 to reduce the threshold for police officers to engage in high-speed pursuits for the following crimes:

  • Violent crimes
  • Sex crimes
  • Escaping from prison
  • DUI
  • Vehicular assault
  • Domestic Violence Assault

How Might Washington Police Pursuit Law Amendments Impact You?

The modifications made to police pursuit laws in Washington State have a direct impact on the crime of eluding law enforcement. Attempting to Elude is a criminal offense in which a driver attempts to evade a law enforcement officer in a reckless manner after the officer attempts to pull them over. “Reckless manner” refers to a hasty or careless action with disregard for the safety of others. The crime of Eluding is a Class C Felony which carries up to 5 years in prison, and up to $10,000.00 in fines.

Under the new amendments, police officers are required to have reasonable suspicion, rather than probable cause, in order to pursue vehicles involved in specific crimes, whereas previously, officers were required to have probable cause before engaging in a high-speed pursuit. It may now be easier for law enforcement to pursue and apprehend individuals who are actively fleeing the scene of a crime, leading to a decrease in the number of incidents where individuals are able to successfully evade the police.

Potential Defenses to Eluding Charges

There are several defenses that an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to use to defend you in a court of law. Some of these defenses include but are not limited to:

Lack of Knowledge: In certain circumstances, a driver may not realize that a law enforcement officer was attempting to pull them over. An example of this could be a police officer that does not use the proper signals when pulling over a driver

Lack of Intent: A driver who did not have intention of evading a police officer may be able to use this as a defense. For instance, if the driver was in a medical emergency and was rushing to the hospital, they may argue they did not intentionally avoid the officer.

Unlawful Pursuit: Another possible defense in a pursuit-related case is to argue that the police officer did not properly adhere to established protocols during the pursuit. This can include failing to follow proper procedure for initiating or halting a pursuit, using excessive force or aggression, or engaging in other behaviors that violate departmental policies or legal standards.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Attempting to Elude is a serious criminal offense that can result in severe legal consequences. If you are facing Attempting to Elude charges, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can help protect your rights and build a strong defense. By working with the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer, you are sure that a highly experienced and knowledgeable attorney will be representing and defending you to the fullest extent of the law.