Woman Charged with Fleeing Lower Merion Police, Resisting Arrest, Driving on a Suspended license and Drug Possession – Could a criminal conviction damage her lawsuit?
Our law firm defends individuals charged with a number of crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We always advise clients if a police officer attempts to stop their vehicle that they promptly comply with the officer’s orders to avoid additional criminal charges. If you fail to a follow a police officer’s verbal command’s it will never help your criminal case. In most cases, it will make the case worse!
Recently, Lower Merion police stopped and arrested Chaine Jordan (36), in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Jordan, who was driving on a suspended license, refused to stop her vehicle despite the officer flashing his patrol vehicle lights. Allegedly, the defendant indicated that she did not feel “safe” to stop her car despite the officer being in full uniform and in a marked patrol vehicle. She remains unrepresented and her preliminary hearing is next month. An argument that Ms. Jordan “did not feel safe” or didn’t know why she was being stopped isn’t an argument in a criminal courtroom. Drivers are obligated to stop their vehicles when a police orders them to do so.
When Jordan did stop her car, she refused to comply with any of the officer’s orders and demanded the officer to call for a supervisor. Her vehicle windows were tinted, and the officer approached the vehicle with his taser drawn and ordered the woman to exit the vehicle. When the woman refused to comply, the officer did activate his taser and took the woman into custody.
Jordan, allegedly has retained a civil law firm to file an action against the police department in Lower Merion, but it is important to understand that the civil action will not serve a defense for her criminal charges. It appears that this civil law firm will not represent her in her criminal case
What are the charges?
She remains charged with driving on a suspended license, resisting arrest and drug possession, along with fleeing the officer. In Pennsylvania, these are all misdemeanor charges (Title 75 §3733). Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer is normally graded as a misdemeanor but can be graded as a felony charge if the driver attempts to endanger the police officer or members of the general public if she engaged in a high-speed chase. There is no evidence to indicate that Jordan will be charged with a felony offense, but nevertheless the maximum punishment is two (2) years of State incarceration (M2).
The drug possession charge is an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one (1) year incarceration. Police allegedly found oxycodone in the vehicle. While her civil lawyer claims it was prescription medication, there is no evidence at this time that Jordan had a prescription for this narcotic.
Driving on a suspended license (Title 75 §1543) is a summary offense with a potential mandatory minimum sentence. There are also mandatory fines and Court costs associated with this summary offense.
It is highly unlikely that the case will be dismissed for lack of evidence at the preliminary hearing. If the case goes to trial, the prosecution will likely argue consciousness of guilt—the driver failed to stop because she knew her driver’s license was suspended and that she had illegal contraband (drugs) in the vehicle.
Resisting Arrest vs. Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer
Resisting arrest (Title 18 Section 5104) is a misdemeanor of the second degree and it is committed if a person attempts to prevent a public servant, like a police officer, from effecting a lawful arrest. While this is a misdemeanor crime, had the officer been injured during this incident with Jordan, the Commonwealth could have charged aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault is committed against a police officer or any public servant when he or she suffers bodily injury as a result of the discharge of their duties (aggravated assault) (Title 18 §2702); in this situation is a felony of the second degree and a felony of the first degree if it results in serious bodily injury or an attempt to cause serious bodily injury. Members of the protected class include police officers, firefighters, EMS, Sheriffs, court staff, Judges and District Attorney’s (Prosecutors).
It is unknown how the county will handle Jordan’s likely civil action, but the outcome of her criminal case could possible serve as a defense to the officer’s actions. Police officers, while trained to deal with these situations, have in the past been killed or seriously injured during traffic stops. In this situation, Jordan refused to comply with the officer’s commands, refused to stop her vehicle and sat in a vehicle with tinted windows, which could have caused the officer concern for his safety given the circumstances he encountered here.
A criminal conviction for resisting arrest, eluding, drug possession and driving on a suspended driver’s license could persuade a jury that the officer was justified.
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