The Crime of Unlawful Flight

What is the crime of Unlawful Flight in Arizona? In Arizona, Unlawful Flight is also known as and sometimes called ‘Felony Flight’. However, it is officially titled Unlawful Flight in the Arizona statutes and is a class 5 felony. (see Consequences of a Felony Conviction in this blog)

The crime of Unlawful Flight can be charged where the State can prove that the driver of a vehicle willfully fled from or attempted to elude a pursuing law enforcement vehicle. That law enforcement vehicle must meet the legal requirements of being appropriately marked and identifiable as an official law enforcement vehicle under Arizona law. Additionally the driver of the law enforcement vehicle must also take action to meet some additional requirements under Arizona law. This usually amounts to the driver turning on the red or blue lights and using an audible siren.

Many involved in law enforcement would define Unlawful Flight as being chased by a police car that has its lights and siren activated. As an Arizona State Prosecutor, I tried this crime many times and discovered that the statute in Arizona is not that simple. The fact that the State has elected to charge you with Unlawful Flight does not necessarily mean they can meet the all the requirements to prove it.

There are some elements that can be challenging for the State such as proving that the person charged was ‘willfully’ fleeing or attempting to elude. Arizona law enforcement now uses many different types of vehicles and the requirements of being appropriately marked, and the use of lights and siren are not always a given.