RECKLESS EVADING A POLICE OFFICER – VC 2800.2
California law defines felony reckless evading charges under Vehicle Code 2800.2 It is often referred to as “felony evading police,” and is described as fleeing police officers while driving with a willful disregard for the safety of others or property. Therefore, felony reckless evading means you:
- Evaded law enforcement in your car, and;
- Drove the vehicle in a severely reckless and dangerous manner;
- While attempting to escape.
Felony reckless criminal allegations are taken very seriously in Los Angeles. The prosecuting agency typically is aggressive in their attempts to obtain a conviction, which carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Vehicle Code 2800.2 is a “wobbler” in California that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
Example of Felony Reckless Evading
In our example, imagine someone has committed a Penal Code 215 carjacking crime. After the police attempt to stop the suspect, the suspect attempts to evade police officers in the vehicle and drives in a reckless manner such as driving at excessive speeds on main roads. The driver then gets off the main road onto smaller residential streets and begins driving through stop signs without stopping, while still driving at a high speed. One police are able to stop the car and arrest the driver, the driver can be charged with Vehicle Code 2800.2 due to the fact they recklessly evaded police in a car without any concern for the safety of other people.
If the driver causes serious bodily injury or death to someone during the police pursuit, the defendant could be charged with “evading police causing injury or death,” which is a related offense of California Vehicle Code 2800.3.
FELONY EVADING POLICE DEFINITION
California Vehicle Code 2800.2 defines the crime of felony reckless evading as such: “Anyone who flees or attempts to elude pursuing police officers in a vehicle while driving in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Based on the above definition, there are two factors at play. First, is that you evaded police in a vehicle, thusly violating VC 2800.1. Second, you recklessly drove the car with a willful disregard for the safety of others.
Essentially, law enforcement must be pursuing you in their vehicle and you willfully fled with an intend to evade the police.
ESSENTIAL FACTORS TO ESTABLISH A VC 2800.2 CONVICTION
For the prosecuting agency to obtain a conviction for felony reckless evading, they must prove the elements, including:
- A police officer in their vehicle was pursuing your vehicle while driving;
- You willfully fled, or attempted to flee, the pursuing law enforcement vehicle;
- The police car exhibited a visible red lamp you saw, or should have seen;
- The police officer in the car was wearing a distinctive uniform;
- The police car was sounding their siren, and distinctively marked;
- You evaded police in a vehicle with a willful and wanton disregard;
- For the safety of other people or property.
To be convicted of felony reckless evading, the police vehicle must have had distinctive markings, which includes the name or seal of the police department on the vehicle’s exterior. Therefore, this law excludes undercover police detectives in unmarked vehicles.
WILLFUL OR WANTON DISREGARD FOR SAFETY
Willful or wanton disregard for safety is an essential element of VC 2800.2, and it distinguishes a misdemeanor charge from a felony charge. For felony reckless evading, driving with a “wanton disregard for safety” means:
- You were aware that your behavior posed a risk of harm, and;
- Intentionally ignored the risk, and;
- Drove our vehicle in a manner that showed;
- No regard for the safety of others.
It is not required that you caused any type of damage, however.
FELONY RECKLESS EVADING PENALTIES
As stated above, this crime is deemed a “wobbler” in California, meaning the prosecuting team has the discretion to file the charges as either a misdemeanor or felony. Typically, it is filed as a felony.
A misdemeanor VC 2800.2 charge carries the following penalties:
- A minimum of 6 months and up to 1 year in the county jail,
- A fine up to $1,000,
- Misdemeanor summary probation.
A felony VC 2800.2 charge carries the following penalties:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison,
- A fine up to $10,000,
- Formal felony probation.
Additionally, a conviction will typically result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license, and your vehicle could be impounded for up to 30 days.
RELATED CALIFORNIA OFFENSES
- VC 2800.1 – evading a police officer
- VC 2800.3 – evading police causing injury or death
- VC 23103 – reckless driving
- PC 148(a) – resisting arrest
FIGHTING RECKLESS EVADING CHARGES
Our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers knows how to successfully defend felony reckless driving charges. There are numerous legal defenses we can use to combat your VC 2800.2 charge, such as:
- Lack of intent,
- Insufficient evidence
Regarding intent to evade, please remember that one of the elements of the crime is that the prosecutor must prove you had specific intent to evade the police. Sometimes we may be able to challenge the intent factor. For example, imagine the late-night incident occurred in a bad neighborhood and you could not tell if the police car was marked. Or, perhaps you were only making an attempt to drive to a location where the lighting was better in order to leave what you thought was a dangerous situation, which would imply you did not evade police.
As for insufficient evidence, sometimes we may be able to make a reasonable argument that you did not recklessly evade the police. Occasionally, the prosecutor attempts to turn a misdemeanor into a felony offense when there is insufficient evidence to support the charge. In these situations out team might be able to prove that your driving was not in a manner that created a high risk of safety to others.
If you, or someone you know, is charged with felony reckless evading, it could carry severe consequences. However, our experience team of criminal defense lawyers know how to fight these charges in order to obtain the best possible outcome four our clients. Prefiling interventions and negotiations with the prosecuting agency may reduce your charges or even result in the dismissal of the case. Please contact out firm if you, or someone you know, has been charged with this crime.