In California, we see police car chases almost every day. Individuals suspected of committing criminal acts attempt to dodge the police, and once their vehicle is rendered useless, they often try to run away on foot. This is not resisting arrest; it is a different crime known as evading an officer. In California, you are considered to have committed a criminal act if you flee from police while they are pursuing you. If you have been charged with this crime, you could face severe consequences upon conviction. California law is designed to ensure that law enforcement officers are respected in order to ensure they enforce any and every law, and that’s why the crime of evading an officer is treated very harshly. Nonetheless, there are instances when individuals are wrongly charged or the prosecution exaggerate the offense committed.
At Long Beach Criminal Lawyer, we understand the court processes and the legal details involving this crime as we have successfully handled similar defense cases in the past. If you have been arrested for evading an officer in Long Beach and Torrance area, availing yourself of a defense attorney from our offices can maximize your odds of a favorable ruling. Call us today anytime at 562-304-5121.
- How California Defines Evading an Officer
- Examples of Evading an Officer
- Potential Penalties for Evading an Officer (VC 2800.1)
- Suspension of commercial driver’s license
- Possible Defenses to VC 2800.1 Evading an Officer
- Crimes Related to VC 2800.1 Evading an Officer
- Reckless evading an officer
- Evading an officer causing injury or death- VC 2800.3
- Resisting arrest
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, it is illegal for an individual to evade a law enforcement officer who is in your pursuit. Evading may mean actively trying to speed away from the officer or simply ignoring him or her. In order for you to be convicted of VC 2800.1 violation, the prosecution must establish all of the following beyond all reasonable doubt:
- A police or law enforcement officer was pursuing you while you were driving a motor vehicle,
- You willfully attempted to flee or evade from the pursuing officer, and
- All of the following were true:
- It was clear that the vehicle was a police vehicle because of the markings;
- The siren on the police vehicle was sounding;
- The police officer was in a uniform;
- The police officer’s vehicle had one or more red light flashing; and
- You either saw or should have seen the light
It's worth noting that it makes no difference if the officer was riding a police bike, motorcycle, or driving a patrol car. You can still be convicted if the officer gave a clear command either verbally or using hand-motion asking you to pull over and you continued to drive on, which means that you willfully flee a pursuing officer.
A man is driving through town on his way home from a long day at work. A police officer tries to pull him over with his siren and lights on. He is just a few blocks away from home, and he refuses to pull over, keeps driving, and weaves through traffic to try to avoid the officer.
Police officers attempt to pull over a woman who drank a few beers before she started driving on her way home. Terrified of driving under the influence of alcohol, she refuses to pull over, speeds away, and leads the officer on a chase through residential streets.
A truck driver driving an overweight vehicle sees a police car trying to pull him over. He knows that he can anger his employer with an overweight citation, and to avoid that, he pretends he doesn’t see the police car and picks up speed.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1, evading an officer is a misdemeanor. If the prosecution can be able to prove all elements of the crime, the potential penalties include:
- Jail time not exceeding one (1) year
- A maximum fine of $1,000;
- Summary probation; and/or
- The impoundment of the vehicle in which you fled from an officer for as long as thirty days as stated in California Vehicle Code Section 14602.7.
In addition, the conditions for your probation may include the suspension of your driver’s license for a period of time depending on the circumstances of your case. It is important to note that you will be charged with only one account of evading an officer regardless of how many law enforcement vehicles or officers pursued you. It will only be considered multiple counts if a flight was also involved.
If you commit the crime of evading an officer in a commercial vehicle, your commercial driver’s license will be suspended for one (1) year. Conversely, if you are a repeat offender of evading an officer and all those instances involved a vehicle meant for commercial purposes, the driver’s license will be revoked permanently. This is a severe penalty keeping in mind the fact that most of the individuals with these types of driver’s licenses depend on them as credentials for employment.
Some of the defense strategies that a skilled criminal defense attorney at Long Beach Criminal Lawyer can raise on your behalf in defending against VC 2800.1 charges include:
- You did not act willfully
Intent is one of the key elements in the crime of evading an officer and must be proven by the prosecution for you to be convicted. You are guilty of the crime of evading an officer if you intentionally or willfully fled or attempted to evade the pursuing officer. You should, therefore, not be convicted of the crime if you did not intend to evade the officer. For instance, it may have been that you were distracted and you did not see the officer immediately or you couldn’t pull over because of extreme weather conditions and heavy traffic that prevailed at the time. It could also be that you could not pull over because you feared your safety in the given neighborhood or you weren’t sure that the officer was legitimate. If you can be able to prove that you reasonably did not know that you were being pulled over or the situation at that time was unsafe, you may be able to challenge the prosecution’s case.
- Insufficient evidence
For misdemeanor evading an officer charges to stick, there are specific requirements set under Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC regarding how the officer’s clothing and car need to have looked. For instance, it should be that the officer’s vehicle has clear markings, one or more red lamp visible that can be seen from the front, a siren, and the police officer was in uniform. If any of these elements is missing, your criminal defense attorney could use this as a defense strategy in ensuring that the charges don't stick. Also, if the prosecution’s evidence against you is incomplete, despite the elements of their case that seem strong, a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who’s familiar with this legal area will know how to look for the holes in their case and can likely get you acquitted based on the prosecution’s weak points.
- Improper procedures
There are strict procedures that law enforcement must follow when pulling someone over for a traffic violation. If the officer failed to adhere to the procedures when pulling you over, you may have a valid defense. For instance, if the officer just made eye contact or gestures or did not have the sirens and lights on, it was unclear to you what the officer needed you to do and so you kept driving. The officer then flagged you down and arrested you for evading an officer. In this case, the officer did not follow proper procedures and your attorney can argue that the officer violated your rights.
- Emergency situation
If you were in the middle of a genuine emergency situation and did not pull over because it could have affected your safety or that of another, your attorney can use this as a defense. Say, for example, you were rushing to the hospital because your child was sick, and a police officer attempted to pull you over. You kept driving until you reached the hospital since you were worried about the safety of your child. Therefore, you cannot be convicted because you refused to stop out of concern for the safety of your child.
- Voluntary intoxication
The defense of voluntary intoxication may apply if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you committed the acts giving rise to the charges and you could not evade the officer intentionally because you were intoxicated. Of course, if voluntary intoxication is used as a defense, it means that you are pleading guilty to a California DUI or DUI of drugs. However, a conviction for DUI is preferable to facing a misdemeanor evading an officer conviction. For instance, a first-time DUI offender is likely to face up to six months in jail while a conviction for misdemeanor evading an officer carried up to one year in jail. Also, a DUI conviction on your record may have less of a stigma than what would be associated with a conviction for evading an officer.
Reckless evading an officer is a felony covered in Vehicle Code Section 2800.2. Under this statute, it is unlawful to willfully flee a pursuing officer while also driving a vehicle with malicious disregard for the lives, safety, and property of other people. For instance, if you took off from an officer in a short chase at 80mph and then stopped a mile down the road, the prosecution might charge you with VC 2800.1 misdemeanor evading an officer. However, if you fled through residential streets at 80 miles per hour, and drove recklessly in a way that you nearly struck other drivers, parked cars, and pedestrians, you could face reckless evading an officer charges under VC 2800.2, which is a felony. If convicted under code section 2800.2, you face a maximum fine of $10,000, 16 months to 3 years in state prison, impoundment of your vehicle for 30 days, or both prison and fine.
If you cause serious bodily injury or death of another while fleeing or trying to evade a pursuing officer, you will be charged under Vehicle Code 2800.3. That could mean injuring or causing the death of a passenger in your own car, another driver, a passenger in another car, a bicyclist or a pedestrian, or a police officer who was pursuing you. Under this statute, the crime concerns only substantial physical injury or death of others. This implies that it doesn’t touch on psychological distress or injuries that are minor.
The crime of evading an officer causing injury or death is a wobbler, but prosecutors usually choose to charge it as a felony. If convicted of this crime involving the infliction of "serious" bodily injury, the potential penalties include a fine of from $2,000 to $10,000 or 3, 5, or 7 years in state prison, or both prison and fine. On the other hand, evading an officer causing the death of another person is punishable by from four (4) to ten (10) years in state prison. It is possible for your attorney to get VC 2800.3 charges reduced to VC 2800.1.
Resisting arrest involves resisting, obstructing, or delaying a law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician from performing their duties. If you attempt to flee from the pursuing officer on foot, by train, by bus, by bike, or any other means of transportation other than driving a motor vehicle, you may be charged with resisting arrest instead of evading an officer. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year in county jail, and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Contact Long Beach Criminal Lawyer Today for Assistance
If you or your loved one has been charged with any form of evading an officer, the stakes are so high and you can’t afford to go unrepresented or rely on a busy public defender. The attorneys at Long Beach Criminal Lawyer understand your situation and know just how to help. We stand ready to be there in your hour of need by providing you with well-seasoned legal expertise. We will employ the best possible defense strategies to get the charges dismissed, acquitted, or reduced. For a free, no-obligation legal consultation, contact us anytime 24/7/265 at 562-304-5121.