Evading a police or peace officer is covered under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1, which criminalizes the act of willfully attempting to flee from a police officer who is pursuing you. In basic terms, it's illegal to evade or even attempt to evade a law enforcement officer whom is in your pursuit while they are carrying out their official duties.
It does not matter if the law enforcement officer is driving their patrol car, riding a motorcycle or bicycle. Evading a police officer is known a specific intent crime, meaning that it is required that you specifically intended to commit the offense and it was a willful act.
By law, you act willfully when it was on purpose. You don't need to have intent to break the law. Under VC 2800.1, the police officer's car has to be distinctively marked and the police officer has to be in a uniform that distinguishes them from a regular person. They don't have to be wearing a full police uniform.
The common police vest we frequently see would be considered a distinctive uniform. In Los Angeles County, it's all too common to watch a live high-speed car chase on the news, but the vast majority evading police offenses never receive media coverage.
A common example of an evading police crime in Los Angeles County includes a situation where a driver notices in their rear-view mirror the flashing red lights of a police car. The driver knows they just drank a couple of beers and is worried they are over the legal blood alcohol level and will be arrested for driving under the influence.
Instead of just pulling over for a routine traffic stop, they panic and attempt to lose the police car by speeding up, weaving through other vehicles, and making turns down a side street in order to get away. The driver quickly realizes his mistake and pulls over.
Typically, evading a police officer offense in California is a misdemeanor crime that carries some county jail time and a fine. However, if you evade police in a reckless manner that endangers the safety of others, you could be charged with a felony offense under California Vehicle Code 2800.2.
If you cause serious bodily injury or death of another person while evading police, you could also be charged with a felony crime under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.3. A felony conviction will typically carry significant time in a California state prison and a large fine. See below for more detailed information.
If you have been accused of a misdemeanor or felony evading a police officer offense, you should contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. Our attorneys will need to closely review the details in order to prepare a defense strategy.
Our law firm has a track record of success against evading police charges. For example, in Van Nuys Superior Court, our client was charged with evading police while driving under the influence. We were able to secure a case dismissal after the preliminary hearing.
The Los Angeles County prosecutor decided to re-file the charges seeking a state prison commitment. After extensive negotiations, our client received probation with no jail time. Now that we have discussed the basic overview of an evading police offense above, let's take a closer look at the legal definition, closely related crimes, legal penalties and legal defenses below.
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 – Evading a Police Officer
Under California's Vehicle Code Section 2800.1, evading a police officer is legally defined as:
- (a) Any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer's motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year.
Typically, the pursuing police officer is in a squad car or motorcycle, but you can also be charged with evading police if a uniformed officer was riding a distinctively marked bicycle, and you were given a verbal of hand signal to stop. Additionally, the legal definition of evading police includes certain elements of the crime. These include:
- The police officer's motor vehicle had at least one lighted red lamp that was reasonably visible from the front
- The police officer's motor vehicle was sounding a siren as was reasonably necessary
- The police officer's motor vehicle was distinctively marked
- The motor vehicle was operated by a police officer who was wearing a distinctive uniform
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they will need to be able to prove all the elements of the crime above. The above term “willfully” means on purpose. Again, you don't need to have intended to break the law, hurt another person, or gain any advantage.
As you can see above, the police officer's car must be distinctively marked. This could include a seal or the name of the police department on the outside of the vehicle. Also, the flashing red or blue lights on their vehicle must be visible. A distinctive uniform means any clothing used by a law enforcement agency to distinguish their police officers from the public.
This could also include a police vest that is commonly worn today. However, if a police officer only has a badge, with no uniform, this would not be considered sufficient for an evading a police officer charge. Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our law firm for more information.
Closely Related Evading a Police Officer Offenses
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.2 – Felony Reckless Evading
Under VC 2800.2, it's a crime to willfully flee or attempt to evade a police officer while driving a vehicle with wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. Reckless evading a police officer is commonly known as a “wobbler” offense.
This means the Los Angeles County prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony crime. However, we can tell you from experience, prosecutors will typically charge this type of evading case as a felony.
If convicted of misdemeanor reckless evading a police officer, under violation of California Vehicle Code 2800.2, you will face 6 months to 1 year in a Los Angeles County jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both jail and fine.
If you are convicted of the more serious felony reckless evading a police officer, you will face 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both prison and fine.
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.3 – Evading Police Causing Injury or Death
Under VC 2800.3, it's a crime to willfully flee or attempt to evade a police officer while driving a vehicle, causing serious bodily injury or death of another. Evading police officer causing injury or death is also a “wobbler” offense.
The prosecutor can charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony offense, based on the specific circumstances of the incident. If convicted of misdemeanor crime of evading a police officer causing injury or death, you can face up to 1 year in a Los Angeles County jail, a fine up to $10,000, or both jail and a fine.
If convicted of a felony offense, you can face a California state prison sentence of 3, 5, or 7 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both prison and a fine. If you evade police resulting in the death of another person, the potential legal penalty will increase to 4, 6, or 10 years in a California state prison.
California Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) – Resisting Arrest
Under California PC 148(a)(1), it's a crime to resist, delay, or obstruct a law enforcement officer performing their official duties. This is often similar to evading a police officer offense, because if you flee from the police officer on foot or by use of a motor vehicle, you can be charged with resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor crime.
If you are convicted of resisting arrest in violation of Penal Code 148(a)(1), you can face up to 1 year in a Los Angeles County jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both jail and a fine.
Legal Penalties for a Evading a Police Officer Conviction
If you are convicted of evading a police officer, under of California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1, you are guilty of a misdemeanor offense. The potential legal penalties include:
- Up to 1 year in a Los Angeles County jail
- A fine up to $1,000
- Both jail and a fine
- Misdemeanor summary probation
In addition to the above legal penalties, any vehicle used to evade a police officer can be impounded for up to 30 days under California Vehicle Code Section 14602.7. A judge could also suspend your driver's license as a condition of probation.
Legal Defenses Against an Evading Police Charge
An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP can use a variety of legal strategies in your defense to obtain the best possible outcome against your evading a police officer charges. These potential legal defenses include:
- No specific intent to evade – since intent is the major key element in proving an evading police charge, our criminal lawyers may be able to prove you lacked specific intent to evade a police officer. In some cases, we could make an argument you were in fear of your safety and were not completely sure if it was a police officer and you were attempting to drive a more public location.
- Improper police stop – our attorneys might be able to challenge the police officer's actions when they attempted to pull you over on a traffic stop. In some cases, we might be able to argue the officer did not follow proper legal procedures, such as not using their red lights, siren, or their car did not have a distinctive marking of a law enforcement vehicle. Therefore, you did not reasonable know you were suppose to pull over.
- Insufficient evidence – our lawyers might be able to show there is not enough evidence to support a conviction of evading a police officer. In some case, we could argue the officer was not easy to identify as a police officer because they were not wearing a commonly known police uniform.
If you were intoxicated, we might be able to use a voluntary intoxication defense to challenge your evading a police officer charges. Remember, evading means you had a specific intent.
If you were too intoxicated, we could argue you did not have the mental ability to specifically evade. However, this has risk because you could face driving under the influence charges.
Finally, if the prosecutor has a somewhat weak case, but not willing to dismiss the charges, we may be able to obtain a favorable plea bargain to the lesser offense of disturbing the peace, under California Penal Code Section 415.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of a misdemeanor or felony offense of evading police office, you should contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately.
A conviction will typically result in harsh legal consequences that could impact your personal and profession life. Our lawyers have the legal expertise to obtain the best possible outcome. First, we will need to review the specific details of your case. Our lawyers offer a free immediate response. Call our law firm at 877-781-1570.