Sometimes when people see flashing lights in their rear view mirror, they panic. Drivers may try and evade the police because they have a warrant out for their arrest or are driving a stolen car. However, drivers may also try and get away for more minor violations, like not having a driver's license, driving without insurance, or they had a couple of beers at dinner before driving home. Evading the police is a criminal offense in California and can result in fines and jail time.
Evading a Peace Officer in California
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1(a), “any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer's motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year.”
When do you have to pull over?
In order to be convicted of evading the police, the defendant has to willfully try and flee or elude a police officer's vehicle. This requires one or more of the following conditions to be met:
- The peace officer's motor vehicle is exhibiting at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front and the person either sees or reasonably should have seen the lamp.
- The peace officer's motor vehicle is sounding a siren as may be reasonably necessary.
- The peace officer's motor vehicle is distinctively marked.
- The peace officer's motor vehicle is operated by a peace officer and that peace officer is wearing a distinctive uniform.
A peace officer includes any sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, harbor police, DA office inspector or investigator, and marshal.
Evading a Peace Officer on a Bicycle
You can also be charged with misdemeanor evading an officer who is on a police bike. Under Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1(b), “any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer's bicycle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year if the following conditions exist:”
- The peace officer's bicycle is distinctively marked.
- The peace officer's bicycle is operated by a peace officer and that peace officer is wearing a distinctive uniform.
- The peace officer gives a verbal command to stop.
- The peace officer sounds a horn that produces a sound of at least 115 decibels.
- The peace officer gives a hand signal commanding the person to stop.
- The person is aware or reasonably should have been aware of the verbal command, horn, and hand signal, but refuses to comply with the command to stop.
Evading a Police Officer with Wanton Disregard for Safety
Evading an officer can result in a minimum sentence of 6 months in jail if the driver is operating their vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for public safety.
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.2(a), a person who flees or attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer and the pursued vehicle is driven in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, the person driving shall face confinement in the county jail for not less than six months nor more than one year, and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.
A willful or wanton disregard for public safety includes driving while fleeing during which three or more violations that are assigned a traffic violation point occur, or any property damage occurs. Included traffic violations may include speeding, failing to yield to pedestrians, running a stop sign, failing to obey traffic signals, or failing to signal.
Evading Police Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.3(a), evading the police that results in causing serious bodily injury is a felony.
“Whenever willful flight or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 proximately causes serious bodily injury to any person, the person driving the pursued vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years, by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Injury to another person could include a police officer injured in an accident, a pedestrian who falls getting out of the way of the speeding vehicles, or the defendant's own passenger who is injured in a crash while the defendant was evading police.
Manslaughter While Evading Police
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.3(a), evading the police that results in death to any person, the person driving the pursued vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 4, 6, or 10 years.
Drunk Driving and Evading Police
Some drivers flee from a traffic stop because they know they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. Under California Vehicle Code 23153, “it is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.”
Defenses to Evading Police Charges
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of evading police. Your experienced criminal defense attorney will investigate your case and identify the best potential defenses for your situation. Possible defenses may include:
- The peace officer's vehicle was not clearly identified;
- The defendant did not hear or see the police officer;
- The defendant was looking for a safe location to pull over; or
- The defendant was not driving the car at the time.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal evading charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.