If you or a loved one have recently found yourself facing the charge of evading an officer, resisting arrest, or similar charges, you could face extremely serious consequences upon a conviction. The state of California treats this crime very harshly as they understand that unless law enforcement officers are respected, it will be nearly impossible to enforce any and every law, resulting in widespread chaos. However, there are also times when this charge is wrongly filed or when the offense committed is greatly exaggerated by the prosecutor.
At Leah Legal, we have successfully handled numerous evasion of a police officer defense cases in the past, and we understand the legal details and the real-world court processes upon which these cases typically turn. If you have been recently arrested for evading a police officer in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California, do not hesitate to turn to us for help by calling 818-484-1100 anytime 24/7.
Evading a Police Officer
California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 defines "evading a police officer" as willfully fleeing pursuing police while driving a motor vehicle. This can mean simply ignoring the officer or actively trying to speed away from and "lose" him/her.
To gain a conviction on the charge of evading a police officer, the prosecution must establish the following elements of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt:
- A law enforcement officer pursued you while you were driving a motor vehicle.
- You purposefully attempted to evade and/or flee from the pursuing officer.
- The officer's vehicle had one or more red lights flashing and in plain view, which you saw or should have seen. AND, the police vehicle's siren was sounding. AND, the vehicle was clearly marked as a police vehicle. AND, the police officer was identified as such by a police uniform.
Note that even if the officer was pursuing on a bicycle, you can still be convicted of VC 2800.1 if he/she issued a clear verbal or hand-motion command to pull over and you continued to drive on.
However, under California law, you can only be charged with a single count of evading an officer no matter how many police vehicles joined in the chase. Yet, if you fled until many vehicles were pursuing, your sentence could be enhanced; and if more than one incident of evading an officer occurred, of course, then you can face multiple counts.
Evading an officer (VC 2800.1) is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in county jail.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Impoundment of your vehicle for up to 30 days.
Common defense strategies we use at Leah Legal in defending against charges of evading an officer include:
- Lack of Intent. Unless you "willfully," that is, intentionally fled from the pursuing officer, you are not guilty of violating VC 2800.1. It may have been, for example, that you simply did not see the officer right away or that you could not pull over due to heavy traffic or extreme weather conditions that prevailed at the time. If you can show you did not know you were being pulled over or that you reasonably thought it would be unsafe at the time to pull over, you can win your case.
- Improper Procedures. If police did not adhere to the strict procedures required when pulling someone over for a traffic violation or other valid reason, your case can be dismissed. If the officer did not have his lights and sirens going or did not have a clearly marked police vehicle and uniform, you are not required to stop. If the officer violated your rights in any way, we can probably get the evidence suppressed and your case dismissed.
- Lack of Evidence. If the prosecution's evidence against you is incomplete and suspect at all, despite the arrest and the elements of their case that seem strong, a good defense lawyer can likely get you acquitted based on the prosecution's weak points, or at least get VC 2800.1 reduced to a lesser charge.
- Emergency Situation. If you were in the middle of a genuine emergency situation, such as rushing to the hospital due to a medical emergency or because your wife was about to give birth, you cannot be convicted of evading an officer. Concern for the safety or yourself or others is valid reason to refuse to stop for the pursuing officer in many contexts.
Reckless Evading of a Police Officer
A more serious form of evading an officer is the felony charge "reckless evading of an officer" covered in VC Section 2800.2. This offense involves willfully fleeing a pursuing officer while also driving your vehicle with a reckless disregard for the safety, lives, and property of other people around you.
For example, if you simply fled an officer in a short chase on an open highway at 75 miles per hour and then stopped a mile or two down the road, you might be charged with misdemeanor evasion of an officer (VC 2800.1); but, if you fled through residential city streets at 75 mph, and nearly struck pedestrians, other drivers, and parked cars, you could be charged with reckless evading of a police officer (VC 2800.2), which can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, VC 2800.2 is punishable by:
- From 6 to 12 months in county jail.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Impoundment of your vehicle for 30 days.
If charged as a felony, VC 2800.2 is punishable by:
- From 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- Impoundment of your vehicle for 30 days.
Other possible consequences of a conviction for reckless evading of a police officer include:
- Losing your CDL (commercial driver's license) for a full year. This applies to any major traffic violation involving a commercial vehicle, and especially to felonies. It will likely lead to the loss of your job if you have a CDL. And if you get a second or subsequent such offense, you will lose your CDL for the rest of your life.
- If your flight from the pursuing officer was due to your being involved with the manufacture, distribution, or sale of an illegal drug, and this is proved, then holders of CDLs will lose them even for a first offense.
- A conviction for felony-level reckless evading of a police officer will forfeit your 2nd Amendment right to own, carry, or buy a firearm for the rest of your life (under California Penal Code Section 29800). This is California's "no firearms for felons" law, and it applies to all felonies, including even if the felony was a federal rather than a state offense.
Defenses against reckless evading of a police officer are partly the same as for simple evading of a police officer and are covered in that section. However, there is the added defense that argues your actions did not truly demonstrate a disregard for the safety and property of others or that due to an emergency situation, your actions were reasonable under the circumstances. In some cases, a charge reduction from reckless evading an officer to evading an officer may be possible even where a total victory is not.
Evading an Officer While Causing Injury or Death
Also included as a subsection in VC 2800 is coverage of the situation where, while evading or attempting to evade a pursuing police officer, you cause the injury or death of another person. That could mean another driver, a passenger in another car, a passenger in your own car, a pedestrian or bicyclist, or one of the police officers who was pursuing you.
The crime concerns only "serious" physical injury of others or death of others. It does not concern minor injuries or psychological distress.
Evading a police officer causing injury or death (VC 2800.3) can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the degree of injury inflicted, the facts of the case, and the defendant's past criminal record.
When charged as a misdemeanor, VC 2800.3 is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in a county jail.
- A fine ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
- Impoundment of your vehicle.
When charged as a felony and involving the infliction of "serious" bodily injury, VC 2800.3 is punishable by:
- From 3 to 7 years in state prison.
- A fine of from $2,000 to $10,000.
- Impoundment of your vehicle.
When charged as a felony and involving the death of another person, VC 2800.3 is punishable by from 4 to 10 years in state prison.
Defenses against VC 2800.3 are largely the same as those used against VC 2800.1 (listed above). However, there is the additional possible defense that you actions did not actually cause the injury or death in question or that you could not reasonably have been expected to know your actions would likely cause injury/death to others. In some cases, a reduction from VC 2800.3 to VC 2800.1 might be part of a favorable plea agreement.
Two charges commonly filed along with or instead of VC 2800.1, VC 2800.2, or VC 2800.3 are:
- Unlawful Driving/Taking of a Vehicle
In many cases, those fleeing the police hijack someone else's vehicle to make themselves harder to find and then flee a pursuing officer in that other person's vehicle. If the "desperado" escapes, it is possible the wrong person (the owner of the vehicle) might be mistakenly charged. But if he is apprehended, both evading an officer and VC 10851a can be filed against him.
To be guilty of this crime, you must take another person's vehicle without his/her prior knowledge or consent. It matters not whether you intended to take it permanently or return it, keep if for a short while or for a long time.
Conviction can lead to up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Resisting Arrest
If you resist arrest by a police officer, obstruct/delay him or her in the performance of his/her duties, or delay/obstruct any "medical technician" (as defined in Heath & Safety Code Section 1797 and following), you are guilty of violating PC 148a.
In many cases, resisting arrest is charged instead of evading a police officer if you attempt to flee from a pursuing officer on foot, by bike, by train, by bus, or by any other means besides driving a motor vehicle.
Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 12 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Contact Us Today for Help
We understand your situation if you have been charged with any form evading an officer (VC 2800) or with a similar crime like resisting arrest (PC 148a). It may seem like there is no way to overcome the prosecution and you may be tempted to simply go unrepresented or rely on a busy, inexperienced public defender.
However, when the stakes are so high, you cannot afford to be without the very best possible legal representation.
At Leah Legal, we stand ready to rush to your assistance in your hour of need with well seasoned legal expertise in the practice area of evading an officer defense. We have a long track record of winning the best possible outcomes for our clients in these types of cases, whether that mean a dismissal of the charges, an acquittal, or a reduced charge/sentence as part of a favorable plea agreement.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, call us anytime 24/7/365 at 818-484-1100.