Evading a police officer is the crime you commit when you flee or attempt to flee from a law enforcement officer pursuing you. It is common for a person to panic or be confused about hearing the siren on a police vehicle, and you may decide to drive at excessive speed and give them away without the knowledge that they are pursuing you. A simple act like speeding away when you notice a police vehicle could be met with severe charges under California Vehicle Code 2800.1.
If you face an arrest and are charged with evading a police officer in California, you risk facing severe legal consequences. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, a conviction for this offense will attract jail time and hefty fines. If you or your loved one faces charges for evading a police officer, you will require the guidance of a competent criminal defense attorney. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will help you build a solid defense to fight the charges and avoid a conviction. We serve clients requiring legal guidance and representation in Riverside, CA.
Overview of California Vehicle Code 2800.1
No driver wants to be pulled over randomly, especially when you have not committed a crime. When you hear the siren of the police car, you could be scared of police harassment or false allegations. Nonetheless, when you see the light from the police car in your rearview mirror, the wisest decision is to stop. Failure to stop when you are asked to do so by a police officer could attract an arrest and charges for evading a police officer.
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, evading a police officer involves willful fleeing from an officer who is pursuing you. Before you face a conviction for evading a police officer, the prosecution must establish the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
A Police Officer was Pursuing You
When proving your guilt under this statute, the prosecutor must prove that an officer was pursuing you. The jury will determine the question of whether the officer was pursuing you during the trial.
You Willfully Fled from the Officer while Driving a Vehicle
Evading a police officer is a crime that requires a specific intent. Also, it should be clear that you were driving a vehicle when you committed the crime. If you failed to stop for failing to notice the officer or were attending to an emergency, you could not be found guilty of the crime. Also, you willfully must prove that you deliberately fled from the officer. Your acts are considered willful when you do something on purpose. However, it is not required that you intend to violate the law or injure another person.
The officer who was pursuing you was Marked Distinctively
You can distinguish an officer from other public members by their vehicle or uniform. For a police vehicle to be distinctively marked, it should have the following features during the pursuit:
- A red lamb that is visible from the vehicle front
- A siren
- Any other feature sets the vehicle aside from other vehicles used for law enforcement.
On the other hand, a distinctive uniform means that the officer was in clothing adopted by law enforcement agencies. However, the officer does not need to be in complete uniform.
Penalties for Evading a Police officer in California
In California, evading a police officer is a misdemeanor, and a conviction attracts the following penalties:
- A jail sentence of up to one year
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
- Summary probation. If you are convicted for evading a police officer, you could be sentenced to probation. A probation sentence means spending part of your sentence out of jail. Misdemeanor probation lasts for up to three years, and the court may impose some conditions that you must obey while on probation.
- Vehicle impoundment. After a conviction for evading a police officer, your vehicle could be impounded for up to thirty days. Vehicle impoundment is the legal process of placing the car in a tow yard until the government releases it to you.
- Loss of commercial driver’s license. If you are a holder of a commercial driver’s license, you risk losing your driving privileges for years after a conviction for evading a police officer. If you were driving a commercial vehicle when you committed the crime, you could lose the license for a lifetime. This could be a harsh sentence, mainly if you rely on the license for your work and income.
The consequences of evading a police officer are likely to affect your life even after you serve your sentence. Therefore, it would be wise to contact a criminal lawyer when you face the arrest.
Legal Defense against Vehicle Code 2800.1 Charges
Some circumstances could cause you to speed away without intending to flee from the police. However, such an event will attract an arrest and VC 2800.1 charges. Fortunately, facing an arrest does not always mean that you will be convicted for the offense. With the guidance of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can fight the charges by presenting the following defenses to your case:
No Willful Intent
Willful intent is an essential element that a prosecutor must prove before you face a conviction for evading a police officer. Speeding away without noticing the officer or trying to give them way may not qualify the definition of willful fleeing. If you had no intentions of evading the officer, you could not face a conviction. You can argue that you were distracted and failed to notice the officer or were unable to stop due to dangerous road conditions.
You were Dealing with an Emergency.
If you were involved in an emergency and failed to stop, you can use this to defend your case. For example, it would not be sensible to stop if you were speeding to take someone to the emergency room.
Before you face a conviction for evading a police officer in California, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This will include establishing your intent and knowing that the officer was pursuing you. Also, the officer must have had a distinctively marked vehicle or uniform. If any of these elements is not clear, you can argue a lack of sufficient evidence. If the prosecutor realizes that their case against you is weak, they could reduce the charges to a lesser crime like disturbing the peace or dismissing it.
One of the elements that a prosecutor must prove in your case is that you fled from the officer while driving a vehicle. Sometimes, a person could steal your car and use it to evade an officer. You can argue that you were not the person driving the vehicle at the time of the incident. However, this may be a challenging defense since you must prove how your vehicle ended with the person who committed the crime.
You did not Notice the Officer.
When establishing your guilt for evading a police officer, the prosecutor must prove that the officer pursuing you was distinctively marked. This could be through the siren of the vehicle or their uniform. You can argue that you did not notice the officer, and thus your actions were not aimed at fleeing.
When you face criminal charges for violating CVC 2800.1, you can argue that you were intoxicated from the consumption of alcohol or taking drugs. Due to the voluntary intoxication, you could not form the willful intent to flee from the police officer. However, it is essential to understand that the claim for voluntary intoxication could result in DUI charges. These charges often carry lesser legal consequences and stigma when compared to evading a police officer.
Improper Police Procedures
You might have a valid defense if the officer in your pursuit failed to follow the correct procedure to pull you over. Having a police vehicle behind you is not an indication that you should stop. The officer must take the right action to stop you. A skilled defense lawyer may challenge the officers’ conduct to determine whether they followed the proper procedure.
Expunging a Conviction for Evading a Police officer
The negative consequences that accompany a conviction for evading a police officer will continue to affect your life long after dealing with the legal penalties. Having a conviction for this offense could affect your chances of securing employment. Most employers often carry out a background check on their employees, and they can use the conviction to deny you the job.
When you have a conviction for evading a police officer in your record, you may find it challenging to obtain a professional license or be a credible witness in a case. Additionally, convictions made in California are considered a public record, and the stigma associated with convictions could impact your life.
Fortunately, you can seek relief from the disabilities of the conviction by petitioning the court to expunge your record. Expunging your record allows you to truthfully answer ‘no’ when you are asked about your convictions. However, it would be best if you met the following eligibility criteria for you to expunge the conviction:
- Complete your probation. A conviction for evading a police officer could attract a probation sentence. In California, the court sentences defendants to probation as an alternative to jail time. Before you petition the court to expunge your conviction, you must have completed your probation. This means that you served the probation term and met all the probation requirements. However, if you violate probation, you could still be eligible for an expungement.
- It would be best if you were not facing other criminal charges. If you are serving penalties for another conviction, you will not be eligible to expunge your PC 280.1 conviction.
Before you receive an expungement, your criminal defense lawyer will:
- Analyze the situation to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the relief
- Research on the relevant law to ensure a smooth process
- File the petition with the court and present the relevant evidence
- Attend the hearing
If you meet the eligibility criteria, it would be wise to file for an expungement immediately after completing your probation. Unlike the sealing of arrest records, an expunged conviction could still appear on the background check. However, the law prohibits employers from using it to discriminate against you. Also, you cannot be discredited as a witness in a case based on the expunged conviction. If you wish to petition the court to expunge your VC 2800.1 conviction, it would be wise to consult a criminal defense attorney.
Offenses Related to California VC 2800.1
Evading a police officer is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. In California, some crimes could be charged together with or instead of VC 2800.1 since they share related elements that the prosecutor must prove to secure a conviction. Some of the crimes related to this crime include:
Felony Reckless Evading a Police Officer
California VC 2800.2 defines reckless evading of a police officer as a crime committed by anyone who attempts to flee from the police while driving a vehicle with wanton disregard to the safety of other people. Often reckless evading a police officer is a more serious crime and could be charged when there are aggravating factors in your case. Before you face a conviction under VC 2800.2, the prosecution must prove that:
- A police officer was pursuing your vehicle.
- You willfully fled or attempted to escape from the officer.
- The police vehicle was distinctively marked.
- While evading the police officer, you acted with a wanton disregard for other individuals or property safety. Wanton disregard for safety means that you knew your actions were dangerous but ignored the risk.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, the prosecution can file your charges as a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony conviction, in this case, will attract a prison sentence of up to three years, felony probation, and fines not exceeding $10,000. On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction results in a one-year jail sentence, a $1,000 fine, and misdemeanor probation. Additionally, a conviction under this statute could result in suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. If you face charges for reckless evading of a police officer, it would be wise to enlist the help of an attorney.
Hit and Run
Under California Vehicle Code 2002, a driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injuries or property damage must stop and wait for the police. If you destroy property or a car, you must locate the owner or leave a note indicating your name, address, and accident information. Fleeing from the accident scene without taking responsibility for your actions could attract criminal charges for hit and run.
When you face charges for evading a police officer, and the prosecutor cannot prove that a police officer was pursuing you, they could charge you with a hit and run. To establish that you violated California VC 2002, they must prove that:
- You were involved in an accident while driving a vehicle
- The accident resulted in damage of property or injury to another person
- You knew or would have known of your involvement in the accident
- You willfully failed to stop at the accident scene
Hit and run are often charged as a misdemeanor and are punishable by a one-year jail sentence. However, if you caused injuries or death of another person, you could be charged with a felony. A conviction for a felony hit and run attracts a prison sentence of up to four years, felony probation, and fines of not more than $10,000.
Driving a Vehicle without the Owner’s Consent
Suppose you flee from a police officer with a vehicle belonging to another person. In that case, you could face charges for evading a police officer and driving a car without the owner’s consent. Before you face a conviction under California VC 10852, it must be clear that the vehicle belonged to another person and the owner did not give you consent to drive it. You can be convicted for this offense regardless of the amount you intended to keep the vehicle.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor for driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent, a conviction will result in a one-year jail sentence and $5,000. On the other hand, a felony conviction will attract a three-year jail sentence. If you evade a police officer while driving a vehicle that does not belong to you, you risk facing harsh penalties.
California PC 148(a) makes it an offense to intentionally delay, resist or obstruct law enforcement officers performing their lawful duties. The prosecution must establish the following elements to convict you of the crime successfully:
- You willfully delayed or obstructed a police officer
- When you acted, the police officer was performing their official duties
- You knew or should have known that the officer was engaged in their duties
If you resist an arrest and flee on a vehicle, the prosecution could charge you with resisting arrest instead of evading a police officer. Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor under California law. A conviction for the offense is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Disturbing the Peace
Sometimes, the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated VC 2800.1. However, the prosecution is unlikely to let the case go. Therefore, your attorney could introduce a plea for disturbing peace which is a lesser offense than evading a police officer. Disturbing the peace is charged under California penal Code 415, and a conviction attracts the following penalties:
- Up to ninety days in county jail
- Fines not exceeding $400
Additionally, disturbing the peace attracts lesser negative consequences and stigma.
Frequently Asked Questions on Evading a Police Officer in California
Facing an arrest and charges for evading a police officer could be confusing and challenging. The officer must have had a valid reason for pursuing you in most cases. Some of the frequently asked questions on the arrest and prosecution of this crime include:
Can I be found guilty of evading a police officer if I failed to stop due to an emergency?
You will face a conviction for evading a police officer if you willfully flee. Also, the prosecutor must prove that the officer was marked and you knew they were after you. If you failed to stop because you were responding to an emergency, you could not be guilty of the offense.
Will a pursuit by multiple police vehicles result in multiple counts of evading a police officer?
No. When you evade a police officer in California, you will be charged with one count of the offense regardless of the number of police officers or vehicles that were after you. However, you may face additional penalties depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
How does a conviction for evading a police officer affect my gun rights?
Individuals who face convictions for felony offenses could lose their gun rights. However, evading a police officer is a misdemeanor, and a conviction will not harm your right to purchase and own a firearm.
Are there immigration consequences for evading a police officer in California?
No.Crimes that attract negative immigration consequences like deportation are known as crimes of moral turpitude, and evading a police officer is not one of them. Prosecutors often charge VC 2800.1 as a misdemeanor, and a conviction does not impact your immigration status.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, it is a crime to flee from a police officer while driving a vehicle if they are pursuing you. There can be two outcomes when a police officer attempts to pull over a vehicle. The driver can either pull over or weave into the traffic and evade the officer. If you flee from an officer who is in active pursuit of you, you could be arrested and charged with evading a police officer.
A conviction for evading a police officer attracts serious consequences, especially when charged as a felony. Fortunately, not all arrests for this crime will result in a conviction. With guidance from a skilled criminal attorney, you can fight the charges. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will thoroughly analyze your case and build a solid defense to ensure the best outcome in your case. If you or your loved one faces criminal charges for evading a police officer in Riverside, CA, you will need us in your corner. Contact us today 951-946-6366 at and allow us to guide you through your case.