Being pulled over by a police officer can be scary and overwhelming, and it is not a wonder that you may react by overspeeding. You may also see a police car speeding and Overspeed to give them the way, not knowing they are chasing after you. In either of these circumstances, you can be charged with evading a police officer or attempting to evade police which is a criminal offense. If you are accused of evading a law enforcement official, it is essential to seek help from a defense lawyer. Our experienced and skilled attorneys at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney are ready to help you fight your charges and protect your rights. Reach out to us today if you or your loved one is facing similar charges in Chula Vista, CA.

The Legal Definition of Evading a Police Officer

California VC 2800.1 defines evading a police officer when a person attempts to escape or runs away willfully from police trying to pursue them. However, for you to be convicted for this offense, there are certain elements that the prosecutor is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

  • A peace or police officer was seeking you — The prosecutor must show that a police officer was seeking you. However, the officer pursuing you must have been in a vehicle or motorcycle. The jury would look at the facts revolving around the case and the occasions that happened during the incident to determine if they were pursuing you or not.

  • You willfully evaded a police officer using your vehicle — You can only be convicted for this offense if you escaped the police on purpose. You must not have the purpose of engaging in an illegal act or cause harm to other people. The jury will determine your reason for evading the police in court, but you only need to have fled away from an officer on purpose for you to be convicted.

  • The police were labeled in a manner that a reasonable person would have known that they were police officers. There are various distinct factors that make an officer recognizable from everyone else. These factors include:

  • The officer was driving a car that had a visible red light

  • The police vehicle had a siren when they were chasing after you

  • Any reasonable person would have heard the siren or seen the red light before fleeing off

  • The officer was driving a vehicle that had a distinct mark

  • The car had a visible police department or name on its outside

  • The officer had a distinctive uniform hat could easily be recognized

Penalties For California VC 2800.1

Evading an officer is considered a wobbler in California. This means that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor based on several factors like your criminal history and the factors surrounding the case. Note that the seriousness of the offense also determines the penalties a defendant will face.

If charged with a misdemeanor for evading an officer, you are likely to face:

  • Maximum fines of $1,000

  • Detainment in jail for one year

  • Your driving license could also be suspended for 12 months

Suppose you caused another person great bodily injury, you are likely to face felony charges with the following penalties:

  • Maximum fines of $10,000

  • Detainment for three years in state prison

  • Your driving license could also be suspended for 12 months, AND

  • Your vehicle may be impounded.

If you have been charged with evading an officer, it is important to use the help of a skilled and experienced defense attorney to help you fight your charges and possibly have your penalties reduced.

Can A Conviction For Evading an Officer Be Expunged?

If your criminal records are expunged, it means that you have been relieved from any disability or penalty that may arise from the specific conviction. In other words, it is a type of post-conviction relief issued by the government once the defendant has completed their penalties and gone through probation. You can get an expungement after being charged for evading an officer, but there are certain requirements that the court requires you to meet. These requirements include:

  • You completed your probation. You will likely receive a probation term after being convicted of evading a police officer. If you follow the probation rules and portray an improvement in your behavior, your criminal records will likely be expunged. However, you may still receive a record expungement even after violating the probation terms, but this depends on your criminal history, the crime severity, and your probation performance.

  • You do not have any outstanding convictions or cases. For your criminal records to be expunged, you must not be facing other charges or serving penalties for a different crime.

There are steps that your attorney needs to take before the court grants your request. For example, your attorney needs to:

  • Attend a hearing

  • File relevant paperwork during the required period

  • Research the appropriate law, AND

  • Fully analyze your case

If your attorney determines that your criminal records can be expunged, ensure that you apply for the expungement immediately after your probation. If you also receive a probation termination, you will have to wait two years before applying for an expungement. Note that having your criminal records expunged is different from sealing them. When you seal your records, no one will access them; however, there are agencies like car insurance companies who will still have access to your expunged records.

If you have been convicted of evading a police officer, your conviction records expunged have various benefits. For example:

  • You can easily obtain a professional license once your records for evading an officer are expunged

  • Once your conviction records are expunged, you can be a witness in a different case

  • Your potential employer can not discriminate against you based on the certain conviction

Defenses For Evading a la enforcement Officer

Facing charges of evading an officer doesn’t mean you are guilty. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to develop a legal defense to help fight your charges and possibly have them reduced or dismissed. Note that not all defenses work on your case since cases are different. Ensure you hire an experienced attorney to help you develop strong defenses based on your case and its factors. Below are some of the most common defenses used in fighting charges of evading a police officer.

Mistaken Identity

One of the key elements that the prosecutor needs to prove for you to be sentenced for evading an officer is that you were operating a car. You could be riding in the car and be mistaken for another person who could be driving a vehicle that is the same as yours when they committed the crime, or your physical appearance could resemble that of the driver. A person can also steal or borrow your car and engage in an offense with it. Although it may be challenging to show that you were mistaken for the person driving the car when the crime occurred, you can use witnesses and your defense lawyer to show that another person was in possession of the vehicle when the incident happened.

Lack Of Intent

To be convicted for evading a police officer, you must have the intent to escape or avoid the police. You may argue that you saw a speeding police vehicle and thought they needed to get away, so you increased your speed to offer them a way without knowing they were pursuing you. It can also be challenging to prove that you had no intent to commit this offense, but you can use the help of your criminal defense attorney to do so.

You Never Acted Willfully

To be convicted for this offense, the prosecutor must prove that you evaded the police willfully. You may argue that you were driving fast to attend to an urgent matter, like rushing a sick person to a hospital, or failing to stop because you did not want to cause a collision. If you can prove that you never acted willfully, you can get a lesser charge or have your charges dismissed completely.

You Never Noticed or Recognized the Police

The police pursuing you ought to be in a distinct uniform that separates them from other people or drive a vehicle that has a siren or a flashlight. They should also have a badge or label to prove that they are officers. You can argue that you were unaware that the car or people pursuing you were police officers. You can also argue that the police lacked flashlights when chasing after you.

Threats

Your actions could have been a result of fear. You may argue that you were endangered, or under pressure which is why you reacted the way you did. But, you have to prove that there was violence that was likely to result in danger. This can be a challenging but valid defense to fight your charges.

Incorrect Police Procedure

According to the law, there is a specific procedure that the police need to use when stopping a person. If an officer used an incorrect method to stop, and you failed to pull over, you cannot be convicted for evading an officer. Your criminal defense attorney can help you argue that the police failed to follow the correct procedure to stop you, and that’s why you failed to stop.

Insufficient Evidence

To be convicted of evading an officer, the prosecutor must provide evidence to prove all the above-mentioned elements. Your lawyer can assist you in looking for any loopholes in the prosecutor’s evidence and use that to challenge it and fight your charges.

Falsified police reports

When police make an arrest, they hurriedly make reports and hand over your case to a prosecutor. At times, these reports may contain details that may not be true. You use witnesses and any other form of evidence to challenge the police reports.

You can also argue that you were driving while intoxicated, which is why you failed to stop, but did not willfully and intentionally from the police. If you can prove this defense, you may be able to have your sentence reduced from 12 months to 6 months and your criminal record will also be less problematic.

Examples Of Evading an Officer

Below are some examples of when people commit the offense of evading a law enforcement officer.

  • Peter is driving to work on a Friday morning when an officer tries to pull him over for the expired tabs on his car. Since Peter does not have a driving license, he decides not to stop and increases his speed. He then notices the police car with a siren and lights on trying to pursue him, and he drives off on a side street in an attempt to lose the police. If arrested, Peter can be charged with evading the police since she intentionally tried to run away from the police.

  • Mike is driving home from a party with his radio on high volume. A non-uniformed police officer tries to pull him over for speeding, but he does not stop since he was focusing on his music. The police officer did not have his uniform on, and his car had no label or sign to show that it was a police car. If arrested, Mike cannot be charged with evading an officer.

  • Jackson is driving home in the morning after spending the night at his friend’s house when an officer pulls him over for poor driving. Since Jackson is intoxicated, he turns onto a side street near the school and tries to evade the police. If he is arrested, he will be charged with felony reckless evading since he is disregarding the safety of the kids going to school.

FAQs About Evading A Law Enforcement Officer

To help you understand Vehicle code 2800.1, we have compiled a list of the questions that are frequently asked below.

I attempted to escape from a police vehicle, and I found myself surrounded by several police vehicles. Will I face multiple convictions for evading several police cars?

No. Regardless of the number of police persuading you, you will face a single account of evading an officer. But you are likely to get a punishment enhancement based on the case’s circumstances and the events that took place when evading the police.

Can I face a conviction for evading an officer if an urgent matter stopped me from pulling over?

One of the key elements of this offense is that the prosecutor must prove that you willfully fled from the police. The prosecutor must also prove that you knew or that a reasonable person should have known that it was the police who were pulling them over. However, if you can prove that you had an emergency that you needed to attend to, which is why you failed to pull over, you may have your charges reduced. You could be rushing a sick person to the hospital or had an urgent issue to attend to. You can use medical reports, witnesses, or any other evidence to prove this.

Will being sentenced for evading an officer affect my gun rights?

No. Only those convicted of felony offenses are likely to lose their gun rights. Evading a law enforcement officer is mainly sentenced as a misdemeanor, meaning it has no effect on your gun rights. You can still own or possess a gun after being convicted under VC 2800.1

Does a Conviction under VC 2800.1 have any immigration consequences?

No. In most cases, only serious offenses can lead to the deportation of non-citizens. But facing charges of evading an officer does not affect your immigration status.

Can I be convicted for evading an officer even if they were pursuing me with a motorcycle?

Yes. You can be sentenced for evading police who were on a motorcycle or a car as long as you knew they were law enforcement officers and you willfully and intentionally evaded them.

I was riding in my friend’s car as a passenger when he tried to avoid an officer. Can I be charged for evading an officer?

No. You can only be convicted for evading an officer if you were the driver. However, there are cases when the court will consider convicting a passenger. For example, if the passenger urges the driver to take off when stopped by a police officer. But in most cases, only the driver is convicted.

Related Offenses

Under California law, there are offenses that are charged in place of or alongside evading a police officer. These crimes include:

Felony Reckless Evading — California VC 2800.2

This offense is explained as when a defendant evades law enforcement officers (as described in vehicle code 2800.1). When doing so, they drive while willfully disregarding human life or with disregard for other people’s safety. In other terms, you can be convicted for this offense when you drove recklessly when escaping the police and ignored the risk of causing harm to other people on the road. You can also be sentenced for this offense when you violate three traffic rules.

This offense is considered a wobbler despite its name depending on your past convictions (if any), the severity of the offense, and if there were any injuries sustained. If charged with a misdemeanor, you are likely to face maximum fines of $1,000, detainment in county jail for up to 12 months, and informal probation.

If charged with a felony for felony reckless driving, you are likely to face maximum fines of $10,000, detainment in prison for 3 years, formal probation, and you risk having your driving license suspended.

Evading a Police Causing Death or Injury — California VC 2800.3

If when trying to run away from an officer (as described in vehicle code 2800.1) you cause great bodily injuries or the demise of another person, you will be convicted under vehicle code 2800.3. Great bodily injuries that may count include serious brain injury, bone fractures, disfigurement, and other serious injuries. This offense is also considered a wobbler under California law. If charged with a misdemeanor, you are likely to face detainment in county jail for one year, maximum fines of $1,000, and informal probation.

On the other hand, if charged with a felony, you are likely to face maximum fines of $10,000, detainment in state prison for seven years, and formal probation. You will automatically face a felony charge if you cause another person’s death when evading an officer. If this is the case, your penalties could be enhanced, you risk being banned from owning or possessing a gun, and your driver’s license could be suspended.

Resisting an Arrest — California PC 148

If you obstruct, delay, or resist an arrest, you will face resisting arrest charges under PC 148. However, you must have willfully obstructed an officer from performing their duty to be convicted. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor, and the penalties include detainment in county jail for one year, informal probation, and maximum fines of $1,000.

Driving a Vehicle Without the Owner’s Consent

Suppose you are arrested for evading a law enforcement officer when driving another person’s car without their license, you will likely be charged with driving a car without the owner’s consent and evading a law enforcement officer. A conviction for this offense can attract fines of up to $5,000 and detainment in jail for one year if charged as a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, you may face detainment in state prison for three years and hefty fines.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges for evading an officer. It is essential to reach out to a skilled attorney to help you fight your charges. We at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney have the legal expertise needed to fight these charges. Our experienced attorneys are ready to offer in-person and online legal services to our clients in Chula Vista, CA. Call us anytime at 619-877-6894.