Evading Police: Law, Penalty & Defense
Vehicle Code 2800 Crimes
Information on the crime of evading police is found at California vehicle code Section 2800. In short, evading police means to attempt to avoid capture by law enforcement by use of a vehicle (vehicle police chase).
VC 2800.1(a): Charged when the defendant uses his or her vehicle in an attempt to avoid police capture
VC 2800.2(a): Charged when the defendant uses his or her vehicle in an attempt to escape police capture and does so recklessly, with willful or wanton disregard for public safety (see VC 2800.2(b) for willful and wanton disregard for public safety definition below).
VC 2800.3(a): Charged when the defendant uses his or her vehicle in an attempt to avoid police capture and causes serious bodily injury in the attempt
VC 2800.4(b): Charged when the defendant uses his or her vehicle in an attempt to avoid police capture and causes death in the attempt
Willful & Wanton Disregard for Public Safety: For purposes of VC 2800.2, a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property includes, but is not limited to, driving while fleeing or attempting to elude a pursuing peace officer during which time either three or more violations that are assigned a traffic violation point count under Section 12810 occur, or damage to property occurs (VC 2800.2(b) Abbrev).
One of the most common evading police crimes is charged under VC 2800.1(a) Evading Police without Recklessness or Injury (Charged as VC2800.1(a)-F in San Bernardino county). To prove evading, the prosecutor must prove all of the following:
A peace officer driving a motor vehicle was pursuing the defendant
The defendant driver, willfully fled from, or tried to elude, the officer, intending to evade the officer
At the time of the evasion, the officer had at least one red light visible from the front of the peace officer's vehicle and the defendant should reasonably have seen the red light; and
The pursuing officer had his or her siren on while driving in a distinctively marked police vehicle.
VC 2800 Penalties
VC 2800.1(a) Evading Police, is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of VC 2800.1(a),the defendant could face up to a year in jail.
VC 2800.2(a) Reckless Evading Police, is charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history. When VC 2800.2(a) is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to 1 year in the county jail; When VC 2800.2(a) is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to 3 years in state prison.
VC 2800.3(a) Evading Police or Capture with Serious Bodily Injury, is charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the seriousness of the injuries, the circumstances of the alleged evasion, and the defendant's criminal history. When VC 2800.3(a) is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to 1 year in the county jail. When VC 2800.3(a) is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to 7 years in state prison.
VC 2800.4(b) Attempt to Evade Capture by Police Causing Death, is charged as a felony. If found guilty of VC 2800.3(b), the defendant may face up to 10 years in state prison.
Note: When a defendant is found to have violated multiple sections of VC 2800 during a police chase, the defendant is generally charged with only the most serious of the evading police charges. For example, if the defendant initially fails to pull over for an officer, he may be charged with VC 2800.1 (misdemeanor), but when the driver starts to drive recklessly and carelessly while evading (VC 2800.2), then the defendant is likely to be charged with the more serious offense of VC 2800.2, as opposed to the misdemeanor crime of VC 2800.1. This is true even though technically, the defendant could be charged with both vehicle offense.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision, with or without some actual jail or work release, that is intended to serve as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence. Probation sentences are allowed in Cc 2800 crimes; however,, whether or not a defendant is granted a probation sentence after a conviction for PC 2800 crime, depends mostly on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history
Note: Probation sentences are more likely in VC 2800.1(a) Evading Police, and VC 2800.2(a) Reckless Avoiding Police, because there is no injury that results in those crimes.
PC 1170 Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted of evading police (also called Evading Capture), and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence in either VC 2800.2(a), VC 2800.2(a), or VC 2800.4(B, then the defendant must serve his or her jail sentence in a California state prison, (as opposed to a local county jail). Also, no part of the defendant's prison sentence may be split or suspended (also called joint suspended).
Three Strikes Law: The crimes of evading police and reckless evading police (VC 2800.2(a) & VC 2800.3(a), respectively) are not strike crimes in California; however, Evading capture causing serious bodily injury and evading capture causing death (VC 2800.3(a) & VC 2800.4(b), respectively) are both strike offenses under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law.
License Suspension: All VC 2800 evading police crimes carry driver's license suspension penalties upon conviction.
Bail: The scheduled bail amount for reckless evading police is $100,000 in San Bernardino County (2023). Different evading police crimes may have different bail amounts.
In addition to any jail or prison sentence, criminal convictions for evading crimes can lead to other severe consequences, including, Immigration issues (for non-U.S. citizens), fines, lawsuits, employment loss, auto insurance rate increase, suspension or revocation of driving license, civil lawsuits, and more.
VC 2800 Defense
Defenses unique to evading crimes include, evading a police cruiser that is not clearly marked as a law enforcement vehicle; no police siren wailing at a minimum of 120 decibels within a short distance of defendant's vehicle; lack of intent to evade; lack of serious injury (For VC 2800.3(a) crimes), lack of causation for death (For VC 2800.4(b) crimes).
Example: David is driving without a license (VC 12500(a)). Goliath, a police officer attempts to pull David over for David's broken taillight. Goliath turns on his overhead red light, but he does not turn on his police siren. David decides to ignore Goliath and drives for two more miles before he yields to Goliath's red light. David is arrested without incident. Later, David is charged with three crimes 1) driving without a license (VC 12500(a)), 2) evading police (PC 2800.1), and 3) delaying arrest (PC 148(a)(1). Result: David is not guilty of evading police or delaying an officer, but the ticket for driving without a license is probably valid. This is because David did not legally evade police (no police siren), and he did not delay arrest because he was not being arrested when he failed to yield to Goliath. However, Goliath had a right to pull David over for the broken taillight and discovery of the driving without a license violation is valid.
Other defenses might apply to an evading charge include: statute of limitations, Due Process violation, coerced confessions, mistake of fact, necessity or emergency, and more.
If you have been charged with the crime of evading police, also called evading capture, or any VC 2800 crime, contact our experienced and successful criminal defense attorneys today to learn your rights and options for defense.
Quick Legal Reference
Crime: Reckless Evading Police
Code: VC 2800.2(a) (CalCrim No. 2180 et seq.)
Wobbler: Yes. VC 2800.2(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that VC 2800.2(a) may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: Felony VC 2800.2(a) prison sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.
Probation: Probation may be available in VC 2800.2(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
PC 1170(h)): No. Felony VC 2800.2(a) is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that, unless the defendant is sentenced to probation, incarceration for a felony conviction must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.
Strike: VC 2800.2(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
Firearms: Felony VC 2800.2(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.
Bail: $100,000 (Felony) (San Bernardino County)
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VC 2800 Related Crimes
VC2800.1(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 if all of the following conditions exist:
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 (VC2800.1(a)(1)).
The peace officer’s motor vehicle is sounding a siren as may be reasonably necessary (VC2800.1(a)(2)).
The peace officer’s motor vehicle is distinctively marked (VC2800.1(a)(3)).
The peace officer’s motor vehicle is operated by a peace officer..., and that peace officer is wearing a distinctive uniform (VC2800.1(a)(4) Abbrev.).
VC2800.2(a): If a person flees or attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 and the pursued vehicle is driven in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, the person driving the vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or by confinement in the county jail for not less than six months nor more than one year. The court may also impose a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or may impose both that imprisonment or confinement and fine.
VC2800.3(a): 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... (VC 2800.3(a) Abbrev.).
VC2800.3(b): Whenever willful flight or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 proximately causes death to a 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.
VC2800.4: Whenever a person willfully flees or attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1, and the person operating the pursued vehicle willfully drives that vehicle on a highway in a direction opposite to that in which the traffic lawfully moves upon that highway, the person upon conviction is punishable by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than one year in a county jail or by imprisonment in the state prison... VC 2800.4 Abbrev.).