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Is It Illegal to Help the Police During a Car Chase?

Is It Illegal to Help the Police During a Car Chase?

While a high-speed pursuit makes for exciting television entertainment, real police chases can be incredible dangerous for both officers and bystanders alike. In fact, approximately 300 people die in police chases every year. To mitigate this statistic, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) have established specific rules and protocols for handling pursuits and emergency responses.

For example, officers need to consider weather conditions, general pedestrian activity, and potential traffic hazards before initiating a chase. Recent advancements in GPS technology have also contributed to the updated regulations surrounding police pursuits. Now, law enforcement officers can choose to fall back if a suspect has already been identified and can be arrested at a safer location.

But what happens if a third-party civilian gets involved in the chase? In 2015, a good Samaritan in Utah, Rachell Fernandez, famously interjected herself into a live high-speed police chase. She attempted to complete a PIT-maneuver to stop the suspect’s vehicle and end the pursuit. Unfortunately, her actions propelled the suspect’s car into oncoming traffic, putting countless people in danger.

When the smoke cleared, the police didn’t just arrest the suspect, they also handcuffed Fernandez and charged her with interfering with an arresting officer and failing to stop for an emergency vehicle – both misdemeanor offenses. Later, a police spokesperson commented on the arrest, clarifying that they “discourage our citizens from taking action that places themselves or others at risk of serious injury or death.”

Another incident happened in California on March 4, 2019. A suspect in a stolen vehicle tried to elude officers by driving around the San Fernando Valley for two hours. During the chase, the pursuit vehicle crashed into two other vehicles, effectively adding “hit-and-run” to his list of charges. At one point, a man in a black pickup truck completed a U-Turn and started following the other vehicle. The truck driver ran stop signs, ignored traffic laws, and even drove on the wrong side of the street just to keep up with the suspect. The suspect finally surrendered to the police after the truck driver blocked his vehicle. The truck driver left the scene soon after, but police quickly tracked him down and arrested him for interfering with the pursuit, disregarding traffic laws, and putting countless lives in danger.

The only way civilians can help officers during a police chase is to move their vehicles away from the line of fire. Even if pulling over isn’t an option, you don’t want to directly insert yourself into the heart of a high-speed pursuit. Not only can you be charged with misdemeanor offenses for interfering in the chase, you can also face additional legal consequences if an innocent bystander is injured or killed because of your actions.

Do You Require Criminal Defense Representation? Call Today!

If you’re facing criminal charges, contact the Virginia Beach criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller. Our legal team is backed by over 20 years of experience and is available to you 24/7. We can investigate your case, compile vital evidence, and aggressively advocate for your best interests in court.

Don’t gamble with your future. Contact The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller at (757) 517-2942 to schedule a free consultation.

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