Senator Jim Alesi (R,C - Perinton) today announced the Senate passed legislation he sponsored which would make it a class "A" misdemeanor to force a police officer to engage in a high speed chase and a class "B" misdemeanor to disobey a police officer when directed to stop a vehicle. The bill also makes the act of attempting to elude a police officer and causing physical injury to the police officer or a third person a class E felony.
The bill, S.974, is designed to protect police officers and other motorists by deterring suspects from attempting to flee police. While the bill is targeted at reducing dangerous high-speed chases, it also covers low-speed pursuits in which drivers ignore an officer’s command to pull over but obey all other traffic laws.
Currently, a person who forces a police officer to engage in a vehicular pursuit of any kind is charged with "failure to obey a police officer," which is a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic code. In comparison to the strict penalties created by the Alesi bill, this is a relatively lenient violation that makes individuals, calculating that the penalties if caught are not great, more inclined to attempt to outrun from the law.
"The safety of motorists, pedestrians and police officers is jeopardized when suspects fail to obey a police officer, especially when they then attempt to escape the law through a high speed chase," said Senator Alesi. "By strengthening penalties against criminals who choose to participate in this dangerous behavior, the bill I sponsored will make a person think twice before engaging in any reckless and futile attempt to evade justice."