Once a California police officer tries to stop a vehicle, two possibilities occur typically. Either the motorist pulls off the roadside or, in other circumstances, declines to come to a halt. The driver may even swerve in and away from heavy traffic to attempt to elude the officer. Under California law, it is illegal to flee from the police if they are pursuing you or even try to elude an officer when they are performing their duties. Get in touch with us at Darwish Law so that we can analyze the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that will help you obtain the very best possible outcome for your case.
California’s Law on Evading a Police Officer
The act of intentionally or purposefully getting away from a police officer is a grave offense under California VC 2800.1, which is identified as a specific intent offense.
To be charged under VC 2800.1 for evading an officer, you need to be operating a vehicle, and purposefully try to get away from an officer while he or she is in pursuit of your vehicle in a bicycle, motorcycle or a car.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
To be convicted for fleeing or evading an officer, a prosecuting attorney must provide evidence of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- An insignia on the police vehicle — The officer should have gone after you while driving a clearly noticeable police vehicle, to differentiate it from fire trucks and ambulances. The officer may also be in a marked motorcycle, car, or a bicycle.
- Intention — It must be proven that you had a clear intent to escape from the officer. The prosecutor should show that you were in control of a motor vehicle, attempted to elude, or deliberately ﬂed from a law enforcement agent.
- Red flashing lights — The officer’s vehicle had a minimum of one visible flashing red light that you should have either recognized or should have spotted. The prosecutor should present photographs or videos clearly showing that at least one light was operating. The prosecutor may also bring forward evidence from the police car video system to prove that the siren was sounding at the time.
- Uniform — The police officer should have the required police uniform, which does not necessarily include a plainclothes agent with a police badge.
Possible Defenses to VC 2800.1 Evading a Police Officer
The Police Patrol Vehicle was not Marked
You neither spotted a distinguishing mark on the patrol vehicle, nor did you come to a stop as you believed that it could be a perpetrator pretending to be a police officer. If the police vehicle did not have proper signage or was not clearly visible, then you can’t be found guilty of eluding an officer.
You or Your Passenger Was in Need of Emergency Care
In circumstances where you had an unexpected and sudden situation requiring immediate action like rushing to the hospital, then you will not be convicted of this offense. Since you had no intention of willfully trying to elude a police officer and were instead centered on the well-being of your passenger, the prosecuting attorney cannot establish this vital aspect of the offense.
Improper Police Procedure
If the police officer did not follow the correct procedure to pull over your vehicle, you might have a valid defense. For instance, an officer pulled up next to you at a stoplight, made eye contact, and motioned for you to come to a stop. It was unclear to you what the officer meant by the gesture, so you kept driving. Since the officer did not follow proper procedures and that you reasonably did not know you were being pulled over, you would have a valid defense in your case.
You Didn’t Intentionally Evade Police
If you did not elude the police on purpose, then you cannot be found guilty of the crime. You can only be found guilty if the prosecutor can prove you had the intention of evading or trying to escape from the officer. If you were driving very fast and spotted a police car from a distance, but you were unaware it was pursuing you, you can't be charged with eluding the police.
If you elude a police officer without your knowledge as a result of the effects of drugs or alcohol, or vision or hearing problems, charges for this specific event will be dismissed. You may be charged with driving under the influence, or your driver's license may also be revoked for not satisfying the requirements for acquiring a California driver's license.
No Flashing Lights On
You can only be guilty under this statute if the police officer in pursuit of your car had at the very least one flashing red light during the event of chasing you down. Therefore, you can try to challenge an allegation by saying the flashing light was not on or you did not hear the sound of a siren.
Legal Penalties for Evading a Police Officer Conviction
Evading a police officer is illegal, and if you are found guilty of the misdemeanor offense, you will be convicted under the California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1. The possible legal punishment includes serving a maximum of 1 year in county jail and a maximum of a $1,000 fine. You can receive both fines and jail term, in addition to misdemeanor summary probation.
The California VC Section 14602.7 states that besides the legal penalties you may be subjected to, your vehicle may also be impounded for a maximum of 30 days. As a condition of probation, your driver's license could also be suspended.
Offenses Related to Evading a Police Officer Charge
California VC 2800.2 – Reckless Evading as a Felony
VC 2800.2 is applicable when an individual flees or tries to evade a law enforcement agent, and the pursued vehicle is operated with intentionally or deliberately ignoring the well-being of other individuals or property
VC 2800.2 is a wobbler offense, which means it can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor charge, the penalty is:
- A county jail sentence between six months and one year
- A minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum of $10,000
- Both a fine and a jail sentence
For a felony offense, the penalty may consist of 16 months, two or three years in state prison, fines of up to ten thousand dollars, or both a fine and confinement.
Willful or unprovoked neglecting of the well-being of individuals or property involves: violating three or more traffic rules while eluding or trying to flee from a police officer and, in some instances, resulting in destruction of property.
To show that you are guilty of the offense, the prosecutor must provide evidence of you intentionally attempting to elude an officer, and you ignoring the well-being of other motorists or property. The prosecutor must also prove that the police and the police vehicle were clearly noticeable, and also, the car had at the very least one flashing red light.
California VC 2800.3 – Evading an Officer Causing Death or Injury
When you voluntarily flee or try to evade a police officer causing severe physical injury to an individual, you can be tried for VC 2800.3. You are only guilty of the crime if the death or injury would not have happened if you had not evaded the officer or it was the direct, natural, and probable consequence of your actions
If the alleged victim suffered a severe injury, then the offense is a wobbler under California law. This means that prosecutors may choose to charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The type of charge will depend on the conditions of the offense and your criminal history.
Upon conviction as a misdemeanor, your punishment can include:
- Confinement in jail for at most one year
- Fine of at least $2,000 and a maximum of $10,000
- Both a fine and a jail sentence
- Misdemeanor summary probation
If convicted of a felony charge, your punishment may include:
- Possible prison time for three, five or seven years in state prison
- Felony formal probation
- Fine of at least $2,000 and a maximum of $10,000
If you allegedly kill someone while evading a police officer, under VC 2800.3, your case will be charged as a felony, and you will be subjected to a prison term of four, six, or ten years in state prison.
To be found guilty of the offense, the prosecutor must provide evidence showing that you voluntarily tried to evade a police officer, and you neglected the well-being of the public or property. Proof of your involvement in causing harm or death should also be demonstrated as a result of your attempt to evade police.
California PC 148(a)(1) - Resisting Arrest
The code applies when an individual delays, resists or obstructs a police officer, public officer, or also an EMT.
PC 148 is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. You can receive punishment including confinement in jail for up to one year, a maximum of a one thousand dollar fine or both a fine and a jail sentence if found guilty of the offense.
To prove you are guilty of the offense, the prosecutor must provide evidence of you willfully resisting or delaying an officer or an EMT from carrying out their authorized duties.
California VC 23109(c) – Exhibition of Speed
Under California VC Section 23109, it is prohibited for an individual to engage in a vehicle speed competition on the main road. The vehicle code clearly defines a speed competition as either a vehicle racing against some other vehicle, a timer, or other measuring device.
Once the measurement of the distance covered against the time taken is not more than the speed limit, then it is not considered a speed competition.
VC 23109(c) is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor, and lawyers mostly plea down to this charge from driving under the influence charge if the blood alcohol concentration is low. Upon sentencing, your punishment can include:
- Imprisonment in jail for a minimum of one day but not exceeding 90 days
- Fine of at the very least $355.00 but not exceeding $1,000
- Imprisonment and fine
- 40 hours of restitution or community service
- Suspension of your license for 90 days up until 6 months
To show that you are guilty of the crime, the prosecutor must provide evidence of you willfully engaging in a demonstration of speed, moving at a threatening and risky speed.
What You Should Do If you are Accused of Evading an Officer
California VC 2800.1 evading a police officer, is considered a serious offense. It is crucial to hire the services of an experienced defense lawyer as early as possible to defend your legal rights and prepare a defense plan. Note that consulting a defense attorney early is crucial since the consequences for most driving offenses are immediate, including an effect on your driver’s license. A proficient defense attorney might be capable of:
- Negotiating a lesser sentence in your plea bargain. A lawyer can complete a successful and reasonable plea bargain for you to decrease possible sentencing.
- Providing some grounds for dismissal, such as lack of probable cause for arrest or lack of evidence to prove you committed the crime.
Find a Santa Ana Criminal Attorney Near Me
Charges of evading a police officer have immediate and severe consequences. Therefore, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you contact our attorneys at Darwish Law, we will conduct the investigation and negotiations on your behalf so that you may avoid the harsh criminal consequences and receive reduced punishments. Please get in touch with us at 714-887-4810 today.