If you have been charged with the crime of evading a police officer in California, you could be facing some potentially serious consequences even for a misdemeanor conviction, and even more severe consequences for a felony charge.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we understand the details of California law on evading an officer and know how to build you a solid defense. We also are fully familiar with local, Los Angeles court procedures and with the typical course of action taken by local judges and prosecuting attorneys.
Only by availing yourself of a defense attorney experienced in this very particular practice area can you maximize your odds of a favorable ruling. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we provide you with just such services as that.
HOW DOES CALIFORNIA DEFINE “EVADING A POLICE OFFICER?”
California's Vehicle Code, in Section 2800.1 makes it illegal to evade or attempt to evade a police or other law enforcement officer who is in your pursuit while carrying out his/her legitimate duties. It makes no difference if the officer was driving a patrol car or riding on a motorcycle or police bike, so long as the accused did, in fact, willfully flee a pursuing police officer.
Under California VC 2800.2, the combination of evasion of a law officer and reckless driving is covered and made a felony. Under VC 2800.3, it is also a felony to evade an officer and, in the process, cause an accident leading to the injury or death of another person.
THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME
In order for the prosecutor to gain a conviction against you on the charge of evading an officer, he or she must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) you were being pursued by a law enforcement officer; 2) you willfully tried to flee and escape from that officer; 3) there was at least one lighted red lamp on the front of the officer’s vehicle; 4) you saw or reasonably should have seen the red light; 5) the police vehicle’s siren was clearly sounding; 6) you heard the sound or ought to have heard the sound; 7) The police vehicle was clearly marked as such, and the law officer was wearing a recognizable police uniform.
Note that all six of these elements must be proven. It is not enough for a conviction even if five of them are proven beyond doubt.
Let’s take a closer look at the elements.
You “willfully” tried to flee
Evading an officer is as a "specific intent" crime—that is, it requires that you specifically intended to commit the crime and willfully did so. If you fled from the police officer for a reason other than purposefully and willfully disobeying the officer’s orders, then you cannot be found guilty of the offense. For example, Jack is driving his severely injured brother to the hospital. In his rush to get to the hospital, Jack drives over the speed limit. Joe, an officer, tries to pull Jack over. But Jack is so concerned about getting his brother to the hospital on time that he continues to drive at a high rate of speed. Jack’s intent was to drive his brother to the hospital as soon as possible. He had no intent to evade the police officer. For that reason, Jack is not guilty of Vehicle Code section 2800.1.
The code also requires that the evading was done willfully. You act willfully when you act willing or on purpose. This element of the offense does not require that you intended to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage. For example, Jack recently immigrated to the United States. One day, Jack is driving 65 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone. A police officer tries to pull Jack over but, because he never had such an encounter with his officer in his home country, Jack doe not understand that the officer is flashing his lights and running his siren for Jack. Therefore, Jack continues to drive at the same rate of speed. Jack is not guilty of evading a police officer because he did not evade the officer willfully.
Requirements for the car
Vehicle Code section 2800.1 enumerates specific requirements for how an officer’s car must be marked. The code specifically requires that 1) the front of the officer’s vehicle must have at least one lighted red lamp; 2) the vehicle must have at least one siren that the officer is sounding as reasonably necessary; 3) the officer’s vehicle must be distinctively marked as a police vehicle through means in addition to the red lamp and siren. In other words, the vehicle must have at least one of the following: the seal or name of the police department on the outside of the car or visible flashing blue or white lights visible to the driver.
That the officer be in uniform
The code requires that the officer be in “distinctive uniform.” This does not mean that the officer needs to wear a full uniform but that he must be attired in a manner that distinguishes him or her from a layperson. For example, a police vest suffices as clearly distinctive uniform. But a mere badge is not sufficient.
POSSIBLE PUNISHMENTS FOR EVASION OF A POLICE OFFICER
Under normal circumstances, evading an officer is a misdemeanor crime, punishable by any or all of the following:
A maximum 12-month stay in county jail.
Summary probation along with suspension of your driver's license.
A fine of up to $1,000.
The impoundment of your vehicle for as long as thirty days.
The loss of your CDL for a full year or the loss of it for life if this was not the first offense.
Note that the number of vehicles or police officers pursuing you does not affect how many counts of evading an officer you face. It will only be considered multiple counts if there were multiple "events giving rise to a flight."
Also note that many prosecutors who have relatively weak cases but are unwilling to dismiss the case entirely will agree to a plea that reduces the charge of evading an officer to that of "disturbing the peace" (PC 415). This charge is punishable by 90 days in jail and a maximum $400 fine. In some situations, it might be wise to accept such a plea deal, provided an outright win or dismissal is unrealistic.
If you drive recklessly and endanger the safety of others while evading a police officer, you can be charged with a felony under Vehicle Code Sections 2800.2. A conviction under code section 2800.2 is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in state prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000 when charged as a felony. If you inflict serious bodily injury or death on another person while evading a police officer, you can be charged with a felony under Vehicle Code section 2800.3. A felony conviction under code section 2800.3 subjects you to 3 to 7 years in prison for causing an injury and 4 to 10 years for causing death.
DEFENSES TO EVADING A POLICE OFFICER
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we use a number of different defenses against charges of evading an officer and "customize" the defense to each case. However, here are some of the most common defenses we explore:
- You fled from the officer only because there was an emergency need to quickly get to the hospital.
- You fled because you feared it might be not be a true police officer but an imposter who was following you.
- You did not flee but were seeking a good place to safely pull over on the side of the road.
- The pursuing vehicle was not clearly marked as police, had no visible red light, and/or sounded no siren, or the police officer had no complete, distinctive uniform.
- You were driving under the influence but did not intentionally flee from the law officer. This can reduce your jail time from 12 to 6 months and will be much less problematic on your permanent criminal record.
HOW OUR OFFICE CAN HELP
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we have the legal expertise and the undying tenacity to fight hard for each and every client we serve. Our lead attorney, Negin Yamini, thoroughly explores all possible defenses and artfully present any and all mitigating factors on your behalf
To learn more or for a free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us anytime 24/7/365 at 424-333-0943.