It has already been stated that it is legal to flee the police, even if they approach you, so long as they have not attempted to detain you: Is it illegal to run away from a police officer in a way that provokes them, in the US?

So what if an individual is deaf, and therefore could not hear a police officer's request to stop? Can they still legally flee the police on the grounds that they did not know they were being detained since the officer did not communicate their detention in a manner that was understandable to them?

For example say a deaf person sees a police officer approach them and suspects the officer's intent is to detain them, but they cannot hear if the officer asked them to stop (presume the officer's mouth is concealed to the point that reading their lips wasn't possible). This person flees, say by starting their car and driving away while the cop is on foot, before the officer has realized the individual is deaf and so communicated their intent to detain the individual via a non-audible method. If the individual is later detained would they be able to make a claim that their fleeing was legal on the grounds that the intent to detain them was insufficiently communicated?

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    This is an absolute nonsense situation. Communication doesn't have to be verbal/oral to be understood and nobody without major physical disability communicates solely through voice.
    – user4657
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 22:11
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    So this isn't a traffic stop, but the deaf person is sitting in his car and drives away, despite seeing an officer approaching his direction? First, can the deaf drive legally? I know someone can be considered driving unsafe with headphones in, so the law does anticipate hearing? Can the cop not call in a pursuit that would follow the individual with lights, which are designed to be overly visible on the road.
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


In the United States, you can always choose to (try to) flee police. If the police subsequently assert that they tried to detain you, then they can choose to charge you with a number of crimes (which vary by jurisdiction).

The assertion that you did not (or could not) in fact hear or perceive a lawful order to stop is a defense that you could raise in response to such charges.

It is up to the triers of fact to determine whether, given the specifics of the case, they accept that defense.

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