The Offence of Evading Police (Vic)
Traffic laws in Victoria are strict and Victoria Police have a number of powers when dealing with motorists. Most notably, a Victorian police officer has the legal authority to direct a vehicle to stop moving. Should a motorist fail to stop or attempt to evade police, then harsh penalties apply, including mandatory licence suspension. This article outlines the offence of evading police.
What constitutes ‘evading’ police?
Once you have been given a direction from a police officer to stop driving a motor vehicle, it is an offence to continue to drive. Put simply, if you willfully refuse to stop the motor vehicle and you continue to operate the vehicle despite having been given a direction from a police officer then you have engaged in conduct which may constitute evading police.
A lawful direction to stop driving a motor vehicle should clearly indicate that the driver must stop the vehicle, and this can be achieved through hand signals, flashing of police headlights, use of red and blue flashing lights on police vehicles, the sounding of an alarm or a display sign.
What are the elements that must be proven?
In order for a person to be found guilty of this offence, the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt each of the following elements::
- That the person was provided with a direction to stop;
- That direction was provided by a police officer (or Protective Services Officer); and
- The accused knew that they had been provided with a direction to stop; or
- A reasonable person would have known that they had been given a direction to stop.
What are the possible penalties for evading police?
Under section 64A of the Road Safety Act 1986, a person who continues to drive a motor vehicle when directed to stop by the police will be subject to different penalties depending whether it is a first offence or a second or subsequent offence.
For a first offence, a person is liable to a fine of up to 60 penalty units and/or imprisonment for six months and the court must also cancel their licence and disqualify them from driving for a period of not less than six months.
For a second or subsequent offence, a person can be fined a maximum of 120 penalty unites and/or imprisoned for 12 months, and the court must also cancel their licence and disqualify them from driving for a period of not less than 12 months.
Further, continuing to drive a motor vehicle when directed to stop is a category 1 offence under Victoria’s Hoon Driving Laws, and this could lead to the vehicle involved being forfeited, immobilised or impounded.
Are there any possible defences?
Evading police is a strict liability offence, and therefore your moral responsibility is not required to be proven in order for you to be found guilty. However, if you held a mistaken and reasonable belief about a set of facts then this would amount to a valid defence against the charge. This is better known as the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact.
It will also be a defence to the charge if you can establish that the direction provided by police was not clear, the direction was unlawful or that you stopped your vehicle as soon as possible after being provided with the direction to stop.
Where will my case be heard?
A case involving evading police is usually dealt with in the Magistrates Court, however in certain circumstances and depending on whether more serious charges are involved, the case may be dealt with in the higher courts.
What to do next?
When a person is faced with possible charges involving evading police, they may not be in the state of mind to think clearly. They may act on impulse which can cause further complications defending any allegations to be made by the prosecution. This is why it is extremely important that you do not speak to police or to the prosecution before seeking legal advice and representation.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal.