In their mission to serve and protect, law enforcement officers have the authority to issue orders to people to execute their duties. When a person is approached by a police officer or pulled over by an officer for a suspected traffic violation, they are expected to follow the officer's orders.
These orders might be necessary for public safety or to keep order during an emergency. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges.
California Vehicle Code 2800 VC is the statute making it a crime to refuse or fail to comply with a lawful order or direction that any peace officer gave.
This statute is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in county jail. A typical example includes someone driving through a closed area on the road after being directed by a police officer to go another way.
To prove someone guilty of violating VC 2800, the prosecution must prove that you willfully refused or failed to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of any peace officer while they were in uniform and were performing their duties.
Under Vehicle Code 2800(b)(1) VC, it is also illegal to ignore a lawfully issued “out-of-service” order that is given to vehicles deemed unsafe to operate or not adequately equipped, which is often administered by the California Highway Patrol. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic more closely below.
What Constitutes Disobeying a Peace Officer?
According to VC 2800, it is a crime to fail or refuse to comply with any order, signal, or direction given by a police officer, provided that:
- the officer is clearly in uniform; and
- the officer gives the order in the performance of their duties.
Suppose you refuse to obey an officer's direction, signal, or direct order. In that case, you may face misdemeanor charges in addition to any other violations or charges for which the officer may have stopped you.
As noted, VC 2800 also makes it a crime to operate a vehicle in violation of an "out-of-service" order issued by a CHP officer or other authorized law enforcement official. An "out-of-service" order declares a car to be unsafe to drive.
Disobeying a peace officer is a misdemeanor in California, which means if you are convicted, you could face fines up to $1000 and up to six months in jail. The exception is operating an out-of-service vehicle, which is a traffic violation for which you may receive a citation and fine.
Judges have latitude with VC 2800 to impose summary probation in place of jail time as the situation warrants.
What Are Some Examples of Failing to Obey Police?
- Refusing to get out of the car at the officer's request during a traffic stop;
- Failing to pull over when the officer signals you to do so, whether by hand signals, verbal signals, siren sounds, or emergency lights
- Refusing to provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked for those documents during a traffic stop
- Attempting to drive away from the officer during a traffic stop before being released to do so
- Driving past a police barrier
- Ignoring the directions of an officer directing traffic
- Operating a vehicle in violation of an out-of-service order.
What are the Related Crimes?
- Resisting Arrest (Penal Code 148a PC): willfully resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer of the law from performing their duties. PC 148a also applies to EMTs and other emergency health officials.
- Evading a Police Officer (Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC): willfully attempting to evade, elude, or flee from an officer in pursuit.
- Felony Reckless Evading (Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC): willfully attempting to evade police while engaging in reckless driving with a disregard for the safety of people or property.
- Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area (Penal Code 409.5 PC): unlawfully and willingly entering an area cordoned off by law enforcement for safety reasons.
- Refusal to Disperse (Penal Code 409 and 416 PC): ignoring a police officer's orders to disperse when a group assembles unlawfully, as part of a riot, or to disturb the peace or commit a crime.
What are the Legal Defenses for Vehicle Code 2800 VC?
Several possible defenses to VC 2800 may exonerate you from the crime—most of which have to do with disproving one of the material factors involved in the crime (i.e., willfully disobeying an officer who was in uniform and performing their duties). A good attorney may refute these charges using any of the following common defenses below.
You were not willfully disobeying. In other words, your action (or inaction) was not out of rebellion toward the officer but for some other reason. For example, perhaps you misunderstood the officer's directions, misread their hand signals, or didn't hear the given order.
The officer was not in uniform. In other words, it was not clear by the officer's mode of dress that they were on duty and therefore had no authority to give the order, or you didn't realize it was an officer speaking to you.
The officer was off-duty. You are only obligated to obey an officer in the regular performance of their duties. If the officer is off-duty, they don't have the authority to order you.
You were obeying an order, signal, or direction given by another officer. For example, you may have been given conflicting instructions by two different officers, so it was impossible to obey one without disobeying the other.
You disobeyed the order out of necessity. An attorney can often get the judge to be lenient by showing that you had a valid reason for ignoring the officer's order. For example, you ignored the officer's order to pull over because someone in the car was experiencing a life-threatening health emergency.
If you were charged with violating Vehicle Code 2800 VC disobeying a police officer, then you should reach out to our law firm to review all the details of the case and to discuss legal options moving forward. Negotiation with the prosecutor might be possible for reduced charges or case dismissal.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles County, and you can contact our office for an initial consultation by calling (310) 328-3776 or by filling out our contact form.