Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren in North Carolina

As you may be aware, when stopped by the police, you are required, by law, to pull over to the side of the road and come to a complete stop. But what happens if you fail to do so because you didn’t see the blue light or had a medical emergency?

Additionally, would you be breaking the law if for some safety reasons, you sped up while the flashing blue lights and blaring sirens were still turned on? Not stopping for a blue light and siren, according to North Carolina statutes, is considered a misdemeanor offense that’s punishable by fines or jail time.

Significance of Vehicle Lights and Sirens

North Carolina law enforcement agencies, including first responders and special-use vehicles, must use their lights for warning and public safety. Specific laws dictate the color, size, and location of each type of vehicle light. As such, it helps to know the different types of emergency colors and systems to ensure you, as a motorist, react safely and promptly. For example, NC city police have used forward-facing lights for decades. 

However, for safety reasons, cities such as Winston-Salem now use a combination of blue and red flashing police lights because red lights are more visible during the day. Regular marked police cars have their lights mounted on top of them. In contrast, most unmarked law enforcement vehicles have internal alternating headlights and strobing blue lights that indicate a police officer performing their duty.

In addition to the strobe feature, most police and emergency response vehicles are equipped with base rotators, which allow the lights to turn 360-degree and shine in all directions for greater visibility. Using sirens and easy-to-identify flashing blue lights in tandem means motorists can see and hear from where a police vehicle is approaching.

Offense Description for Not Stopping for a Blue Light and Siren

It’s important to note that the related North Carolina statute is written to include vehicles other than law enforcement personnel employed by the State Highway Patrol or local municipalities, cities, and towns. This means that you can be charged with a failure to yield or failure to stop for a blue light offense if you knowingly did not stop for the following vehicles in their official call for emergency duties:

  • North Carolina Forest Services
  • North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
  • The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Ambulances, fire trucks, and other rescue personnel

Even if you didn’t mean to, a failure to stop for blue light conviction pertaining to law enforcement and North Carolina traffic laws gives the impression of “running from the police.” You need a particularly skillful and convincing representation to reduce your chances of harsh penalties, especially if someone is injured.

Penalties of Failure to Stop for Blue Light and Siren

It’s against the law for motorists to fail to stop or increase the speed of their cars after being signaled by law enforcement or an emergency vehicle. Penalties for failure to stop for a blue light misdemeanor offense in North Carolina include 90 days to 3 years imprisonment, a $500 fine, and at least 30-days driver’s license suspension. If convicted for the same offense for a second time, the subsequent offense is considered a felony.

A second offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years and at least one-year license suspension. You potentially face 10 years in prison if the felony offense resulted in great bodily injury to another person or 20 years imprisonment if it led to a fatality. Often when motorists are charged with a second offense or felony charges that led to grievous bodily harm or death, their license can be revoked for three years after serving their full sentence.

Potential Defenses for Not Stopping for a Blue Light and Siren Charge

A judge may be lenient if you provide legally valid reasons for a not stopping misdemeanor conviction. You’ll need a North Carolina criminal defense attorney to prove mitigating circumstances that may apply in such a case, for example, bad road conditions or other safety reasons. The most common legal justification for a failure to stop for a blue light and siren offense is if you or a passenger had a medical emergency. For example, your partner was in labor, or you were dealing with a life-threatening medical emergency and were rushing to the hospital. Another legal defense in such a case is when unmarked law enforcement cars are conducting traffic stops. It’s not uncommon for people to impersonate police officers for the purpose of carrying out illegal activities.

If something like that happens, drive to the nearest well-lit area or adequately-populated spot, then call 911 and ask the dispatcher to verify that it is an actual police officer. Note that as long as the police officer can establish probable cause that a violation of the traffic safety code was reasonably suspected, asking you to pull over is legal.

Contact a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney at King Law in North Carolina

Whether you failed to stop for a blue light because of a previous DUI conviction or maybe there was no safe place to pull over, let our full-service team of criminal defense attorneys represent you. If you believe you have lawful reasons for not stopping, you require an experienced lawyer to mount a strong defense that explains your actions.

Even for aggravated charges where penalties are harsh, you still need someone to be your voice and potentially negotiate the least severe punishment. Allow our experienced criminal defense attorneys to examine your case and determine the best legal defenses that protect your freedom. King Law is located across Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. To discuss your options with a criminal defense attorney, call us at (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING, or fill out a contact form to schedule a consultation.