Driver claims she did not realize Oviedo police were stopping her

21-year-old charged with felony for fleeing police

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

OVIEDO, Fla. - UPDATE: A jury found Adriana Irizarry, 21, not guilty one count of felony fleeing and eluding and found her guilty of misdemeanor reckless driving.

She was sentenced to six months of probation and 24 hours of community service.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

If Adriana Irizarry had immediately stopped her car when an Oviedo police officer tried to pull her over for a broken headlight in December, she may have only received a citation for a traffic infraction.

But Irizarry claims she did not hear the patrol vehicle's sirens, and she later told officers she assumed the flashing red and blue lights were meant for someone else.

So the 21-year-old continued driving to her home, less than 2 miles from where the officer first noticed Irizarry.

Now, she is facing up to five years in prison after prosecutors charged her with fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, a third-degree felony.

"She never speeds. She's calm. There are no drugs in her car.  She's not drunk," said Irizarry's attorney, Lyle Mazin.  "Her driver's license was in good order.  There was literally absolutely no reason for this girl to flee from a cop."

In video of the traffic stop captured by Officer Brandon Bedgood's body-worn camera, the officer can be heard accelerating his patrol vehicle right after Irizarry reportedly drove past him near the intersection of County Road 419 and Cosmos Way.

Red and blue lights from the police vehicle are immediately seen reflecting off the trees, the video shows.

The officer activates his police siren but then quickly silences it so he can call in the vehicle's license plate number over the radio.  

The siren resumes about 15 seconds later and is used intermittently as Bedgood follows Irizarry's car.

"He turns on and off his siren multiple times, so the siren is not on the entire time," said Mazin.

Due to the angle of the officer's body-worn camera, the video did not capture the distance between the patrol vehicle and Irizarry's car or whether any other vehicles were on the road.

About two minutes after beginning to follow Irizarry, the officer calls for backup.

"Can you see if there are any county units in the area of Chuluota or Geneva that can assist?" Bedgood can be heard asking over the radio.

Approximately 30 seconds later, Irizarry turns right onto Sterling Creek Parkway and then makes a quick left turn into her neighborhood on Bending Branch Lane.

The video shows that Irizarry immediately stopped her car upon entering the neighborhood, approximately 1.9 miles from the location where the officer first turned on his police lights.

The officer's vehicle was in motion for a total of about two minutes and 50 seconds, the video indicates.

"Why aren't you stopping for me?" Bedgood asked Irizarry after he ordered her out of the car at gunpoint.   

"I didn't realize that...," she replied.

"You didn't realize what?" asked the officer.

"I thought the siren had to be on," said Irizarry.

She later told another officer that she saw the police lights but did not know she was the target of the traffic stop.

"I just never got pulled over before," Irizarry told the officer.  "I was confused.  I didn't think it was for me.  I didn't think I was doing something wrong."

As Irizarry was being booked into the Seminole County Jail, officers towed her car from the scene even though she told them she lived just a few houses away from where she had stopped her car, according her attorney.

Mazin said he understands why the police officer initially tried to protect himself by pointing a weapon at his client when she attempted to climb out of her car.

But the criminal defense attorney told News 6 he was surprised that the State Attorney's Office decided to pursue the felony charge even after prosecutors watched the police video.

"There's no human way that anyone could actually think this girl was fleeing and eluding," said Mazin.  "If you see a car running red lights, not stopping at stop signs and putting a finger out the window to the police officer, they might be fleeing and eluding." 

Under Florida law, "any person who willfully flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement vehicle... with siren and lights activated commits a felony of the third degree."   

A spokesperson for the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney's Office said he could not comment on this specific case while it is pending before the court.

"Every criminal complaint our office receives undergoes a careful and thorough review by experienced prosecutors to determine if they reasonably believe the alleged crimes can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt at trial," said Todd Brown.  "Only when that legal standard is met do we file a formal Notice of Information indicating our intention to pursue the criminal prosecution of a defendant."

Irizarry turned down an offer from prosecutors that would have allowed her to plead guilty to reckless driving, which according to her attorney, is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Instead, Irizarry opted to be tried in front of a six-person jury later this week in hopes that the jury will acquit her.

"This girl, if we don't prevail at trial, will be a convicted felon for the rest of her life, over this" said Mazin. 

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