Felony Reckless Evading Law in California - Vehicle Code 2800.2
Felony reckless evading charges are covered under California Vehicle Code 2800.2. It’s commonly known as “felony evading police” and generally described as fleeing law enforcement while driving a vehicle with willful disregard for the safety of other people or property. In other words, you evade police in your car and drive it in a very reckless and dangerous manner while attempting to escape. In Los Angeles County, felony evasion is considered a serious criminal offense and prosecutors will typically aggressively pursue a conviction. If convicted of VC 2800.2, it will carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Therefore, if you have been accused of felony reckless evading, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately. An example of felony evading includes a situation where someone carjacks a vehicle and attempts to get away from pursuing police officers by driving over 100 mph on the highway. The driver exits the highway and continues fleeing police on residential streets, where they run through several stops signs. Eventually police are able to stop the vehicle and arrest the driver. In this example, the driver could face felony reckless evading charges under Vehicle Code 2800.2 as they were clearly evading police with no regard for the safety of other people or property. If during this same police pursuit, the driver caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, they would be charged with the related offense of “evading an officer causing injury or death,” in violation of California Vehicle Code 2800.3. Even though the name of “felony reckless evading,” under VC 2800.2 suggest it’s always a felony crime, it’s actually a “wobbler,” meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. Their decision on how exactly to file Vehicle Code 2800.2 charges is normally based on any aggravating circumstances in the incident. Now that we have outlined a general overview of felony reckless evading charges, let’s take a more thorough review of the legal definition, penalties, and defenses below.
Legal Definition of Felony Evading Police
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.2, felony reckless evading is legally defined as follows:
A person who flees or attempts to elude pursuing peace officers in a vehicle while driving in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. If convicted, they shall be punished by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine up to $10,000, or both jail and a fine.
Under this legal definition, there are two distinct elements of the crime. First, you evaded police in a vehicle in violation of California Vehicle Code 2800.1. Next, while evading, you drove the vehicle with a willful disregard for the safety of others. This means police must be pursuing you in their vehicle and you willfully fled. In other words, you had a specific intent to evade police. The term “willfully” simply means you did it on purpose.
Elements of Felony Evading
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.2, there are specific elements of the crime the Los Angeles County must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, to convict you. These include:
- A police officer in a vehicle was pursuing you in your vehicle
- You willfully fled, or attempted to elude, the pursuing police vehicle
- The police officer’s car exhibited a visible red lamp that you saw or should have reasonably seen
- The police officer’s car was driven by a police officer in a distinctive uniform
- The police officer’s car was sounding their siren
- The police officer’s car was distinctively marked
- You evaded the police in a vehicle with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons and property
As you can see above, a felony reckless evading charge in California requires that the police officer’s vehicle has distinctive markings. This typically includes the name or seal of the police department on the outside of the vehicle, which excludes undercover police detectives in an unmarked car. What exactly does it mean to drive with a “willful or wanton disregard for safety?” This key element of the crime is the difference between a simple misdemeanor case of evading police covered under California Penal Code Section 2800.1. In order to drive with a wanton disregard for safety means you were aware of the risk of harm, intentionally ignored the risk, and drove your vehicle in a manner that showed no regard for the safety of others, even if you didn’t cause any damage. Call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our office if you have any questions.
Legal Penalties for Reckless Evading
As stated above, a violation of California Vehicle Code 2800.2, felony reckless evading , can actually be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the seriousness of the offense and you criminal history. It should be noted that Los Angeles County prosecutors will typically file VC 2800.2 as a felony offense. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor reckless evading charge, the legal penalties include:
- Minimum of 6 months and up to 1 year in the county jail
- A fine up to $1,000
- Misdemeanor summary probation
If you are convicted of felony reckless evading as a felony crime, the legal penalties include:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison
- A fine up to $10,000
- Formal felony probation
- 2 points on your DMV driving record
It should be noted that regardless of whether you were convicted of reckless evading as a misdemeanor or felony offense, the judge will normally suspend your California driver’s license as part of your probation. If you are convicted of reckless evading in a commercial vehicle, your commercial driver’s license will be suspended or even revoked.
Legal Defenses for Felony Reckless Evading
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have a history of success defending clients who were accused of felony reckless evading. For example, in one case in Van Nuys Superior Court, our client was charged with a felony evading police while driving under the influence (DUI). Our law firm was able to secure the dismissal of the case after the preliminary hearing. However, the prosecutor decided to re-file the charges seeking a prison commitment. After case negotiation and settlement discussions, our client received probation with no jail time.
There are a wide range of common legal defenses that our criminal lawyers can use to fight charges of felony reckless evading charges. Each case is unique, and requires a close review of the details to determine the best strategy, but some of the potential legal defenses include:
No intent to evade – Again, one of the main elements of the crime that the prosecutor has to prove is that you specifically intended to evade police. In certain situations, our lawyers might be able to cast some doubt on the alleged intent. For example, perhaps it was at night in a bad neighborhood, and the police officer’s car was not distinctly marked. You were attempting to drive to location with better lighting to get aware from what you thought might be a dangerous situation. In other words, you had no intent to evade the police. Another example would include a situation where you were faced with an emergency situation, such as taking an injured friend to the hospital.
Insufficient evidence of reckless driving – In some cases, our attorneys might be able to make an argument you didn’t recklessly evade the police officer. We have seen cases where an aggressive prosecutor wants to turn a misdemeanor evading police into a felony case when there is insufficient evidence to actually prove you were driving reckless. We could show your driving was not in a manner that created a high risk of safety to others. See related: California Penal Code 995 Motion to Dismiss.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm
A conviction for felony reckless evading under California Vehicle Code 2800.2 can have life-altering consequences. We have successfully defended many evading cases and have developed effective strategies to obtain the best possible outcome on your case. It may be possible to negotiate you case to a lesser offense or even dismissed. Let our attorneys review the details to start planning your defense. Contact us at 877-781-1570.
Eisner Gorin LLP
1875 Century Park E #705
Los Angeles, CA 90067