Vista Criminal Attorney is a highly regarded law firm which serves clients situated in the Vista, CA area. The firm is composed of qualified and experienced attorneys who are well versed in criminal law. They can easily defend any case involving the charge of evading an officer –as well as other charges affiliated to it. There are numerous defenses to the criminal charge of evading an officer such as no specific intent, voluntary intoxication, improper police procedure, and insufficient evidence.
What is Evading an Officer According to California Law?
The California Vehicle code 2800.1 establishes the fact that you will be charged with the crime of evading an officer if you, while driving, willfully tried to flee from a law enforcement officer who is pursuing you. The said officer may be pursuing you on a motor vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle.
However, you can only be convicted of evading an officer if you do so willfully and while having a specific intent. The term ‘willfully’ denotes that you evaded the police officer with a specific purpose; probably to avoid being arrested and/or charged with a particular crime. ‘With a specific intent’ implies that you had a clear intention to evade the officer. If you had fled from an officer unwillingly and with no specific intention, then that can end up being your major legal defense. In jurisdictions such as California, the crime of evading an officer is a misdemeanor.
For example; Susan is speeding and has a pound of marijuana which is inside her car’s glove compartment. A highway police officer flags her down. Susan, intending to avoid being charged with ‘possession of marijuana’ charges, willfully refuses to stop but instead weaves her car through traffic and speeds away in an attempt to avoid contact with the officer.
Facts That the Prosecution Should Prove for an Accused Person to Face Conviction of Evading an Officer
For an accused person to face conviction of evading an officer, the prosecution should prove beyond a reasonable doubt, all of these facts below;
- The prosecution should prove that the law enforcement officer flagged you down in an appropriate way and while using the correct procedures. The police officer should not have simply motioned you over using gestures which are difficult to understand.
- While being pursued, you had been driving a motor vehicle when you willfully and with a specific intent either fled or attempted to evade a pursuing police officer. If the prosecution is unable to prove the fact that you had specific and willful intent, then you will be acquitted.
For instance; Sam is driving his pregnant wife Mary to the hospital and she is in labor pains. A police officer motions for Sam to pull over. Sam, who is concerned and worried about his wife's health condition does not stop his car but simply proceeds to go on driving in a bid to reach the hospital in due time. In such a case, Sam had no specific and willful intent to evade the officer but was only worried and anxious about his wife's health condition.
- The vehicle in which the police officer was pursuing you with had one or more red lights which could be seen easily from the frontal viewpoint.
- You either saw or were capable of seeing the said red light(s).If the prosecution is unable to prove the fact that the red light(s) was visible to you, you will not be convicted of evading an officer –no matter how much the police officer’s vehicle was appropriately and distinctively marked.
- A siren was sounded by the said police officer. The prosecution should prove that the siren was loud enough for you to hear and that you willfully ignored the wailing which emanated from the siren.
- The vehicle in which the police officer had been using to pursue you was appropriately and distinctively marked as one belonging to a police officer. The vehicle may be marked with either the seal or the name of the department of law enforcement.
- The said officer was wearing the official uniform reputable to a police officer. The term ‘official uniform' simply denotes the fact that the officer should have been dressed in specific clothing which easily distinguishes him from other members of the public. It is not a requirement for the officer to be in full uniform. However, it will not be sufficient if the officer is simply wearing a badge without any other distinctive items of clothing
In circumstances where by an accused person evades an officer while on a motorcycle and/or a bicycle, the prosecution need not prove these facts as this is considered to be a special circumstance. In these special circumstances, the facts that the prosecution should prove for you to face conviction are different. However, this article focuses on the misdemeanorof evading an officer while driving a motorvehicle; because this is where a majority of cases fall given the rampant cases of pursuits of motor vehicles by police officers.
Penalties for Evading an Officer
In California, evading an officer is classified as a misdemeanor. Normally, misdemeanors attract much less harsh criminal penalties compared to felonies. Therefore, the penalties for committing an act of evading an officer include summary probation, a jail term not exceeding one (1) year, a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1000) and/or an impoundment of the motor vehicle which you used to evade or flee from the officer for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days.
Additionally, your driving license may be suspended by the judge for a specific period as one of the conditions of your probation.
Take note that you shall be convicted of only a single count of evading an officer –regardless of the number of law enforcement officers who had pursued you.
If you evade an officer while driving a commercial vehicle, then you will automatically lose the right of operating the said commercial vehicle for one year. In fact, your commercial driving license will end up being taken away for the remainder of your life if you evade an officer more than once while driving a commercial vehicle. This is a grievous penalty given the number of persons who depend on driving commercial vehicles to fund their livelihoods.
Legal Defenses to Evading an Officer
Our teams of criminal defense attorneys, who are highly experienced, are also well knowledgeable with the most promising defenses to the charge of evading an officer. The application of these defenses will depend on the specific circumstances in your case. These defenses include;
No Specific Intent
As discussed above, you can only be convicted of evading an officer if you had a specific intent. If you had no such specific intent, then this will be the most appropriate defense for you.
Maybe you did not know that you were being pursued by a police officer. Maybe you mistook the police officer for a robber or a thief and you fled fearing for your safety. In all scenarios such as these, the defense of no specific intent will be applied.
Vehicle Code 2800.1 puts it clear the facts that the prosecution should prove before an accused person is convicted of the offense of evading an officer. There must have been the presence of red light, the law enforcement officer must have been dressed in the official uniform, there must have been a siren and the vehicle being used by the police officer must have been marked distinctively. In most instances, the prosecution is unable to prove all of these facts beyond a reasonable doubt. Due to this, you can raise the defense of insufficient evidence since it is a compulsory requirement for the prosecution to prove all these facts beyond a reasonable doubt for you to face conviction.
The defense of voluntary intoxication will apply in your criminal trial if you prove that you were subjected to the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and so you were not in your right state of mind while evading the officer. Due to the fact that you were intoxicated and therefore not in the right state of mind, it can be concluded by the court that you had no specific or willful intent to evade the officer.
Of course, if you use voluntary intoxication as a defense, you may end up facing an extra charge such as a California DUI. But to have a DUI conviction is much better compared to having an evading an officer conviction. This is because the penalty for a misdemeanor DUI conviction is not as severe; you merely spend a jail term not exceeding six (6) months. Moreover, there is less stigma of a criminal record that comes with a DUI conviction compared to being convicted for evading an officer.
Improper Police Procedures
Maybe the police officer did not flag you down in an appropriate way. Maybe you did not understand what the police officer gestured to you and you could not deduce from the gesture that you had been instructed to stop.
In all these scenarios as well as in other instances where the law enforcement officer did not use the correct procedure in telling you to pull over, then you can apply the defense of improper police procedures.
You can use the defense of emergency if you evaded an officer while rushing to attend to a specific emergency. Perhaps you were driving a very sick friend to the hospital, or you were running late on an important job interview or meeting.
By proving to the court that you had a specific emergency to attend to at the time the police officer flagged you down, you will weaken the case of the prosecution by asserting that you had no willful and specific intent to evade the officer.
Evading an Officer and Related Charges
The misdemeanor of evading an officer has other related charges which may look comparatively similar to it but are clearly distinct from it. These charges are;
Felony Reckless Evading an Officer
If you evade an officer as outlined in Vehicle Code 2800.1, and you act recklessly while willfully disregarding the safety and sanctity of property or persons; then you will be charged with felony reckless evading an officer – under California’s Vehicle Code 2800.2.
Felony reckless evading an officer is always described as a ‘California Wobbler’ -meaning that this crime can be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. In most instances, however, California prosecutors have charged it as a felony. If you are convicted of this crime as a felony, you risk facing a sentence in state prison of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years and a possible fine which does not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Evading Causing Injury or Death
If you evaded an officer as outlined in Vehicle Code 2800.1, but while evading, you caused grievous bodily injuries or death to a person(s) within the vicinity of the crime scene; then you shall be charged under Vehicle Code 2800.3 –California’s law of the crime of evading causing injury or death.
If, while evading an officer, you only caused bodily injuries to a person, then the prosecution will charge you with evading causing injury either as a felony or a misdemeanor. With such charges, you risk facing a potential sentence of either three (3), five (5) or seven (7) years in prison.
However, if the act of evasion caused another person’s death; you may face a potential sentence of either four (4), six (6) or ten (10) years in prison.
Disturbing the Peace
You can be charged with the criminal offense of disturbing the peace under California’s Penal Code no. 415. This can be as a result of plea bargaining, in circumstances where you had been previously charged with evading an officer and the prosecution’s case is weak yet they would not like to dismiss the charge.
This offense has a lenient jail sentence which does not exceed ninety (90) days and a small fine which does not exceed four hundred dollars ($400). Moreover, this charge brings with it less stigma that arises out of a criminal record compared to the charge of evading an officer.
Penal code 148(a)(1) of California provides that it shall be unlawful for an individual to obstruct, restrict or delay any law enforcement officer from doing his duties. If a police officer wants to arrest you and you resist, you will be charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest.
Misdemeanor resisting arrest is related to misdemeanor evading an officer since an individual will usually commit these crimes for a sole specific purpose; to avoid being arrested. In evading an officer, you can only do so while driving. However, in resisting arrest, you can run away on foot or by use of other modes of transport.
The penalties for resisting arrest include a sentence in a state prison which does not exceed one (1) year or a fine which does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1000) or both.
Hit and Run
Vehicle code 20002 of California provides that if an individual, while driving, causes harm and/or damage to any person(s) or property, the individual should stop his vehicle and seek the owner of the property or the person(s) injured and leave behind a note which identifies the driver and which explains how the accident occurred.
If you happen to cause damage and/or harm while driving to any person(s) or property and you fail to take the steps mentioned herein; then you risk being charged with either misdemeanor or felony hit and run.
If you cause damage to property, you will be charged with misdemeanor hit and run and upon conviction; you will serve a sentence in a state prison which does not exceed six (6) months or pay a fine which does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1000).
On the other hand, if you cause harm and physical injuries to person(s), you will be charged with felony hit and run and upon conviction, you will serve a sentence in jail which does not exceed four (4) years and a fine which does not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or both.
Find aVista Criminal Attorney Specializing in Charges of Evading an Officer Near Me
To be acquitted or charges reduced for the charge of evading an officer, you must raise at least one of the possible defenses discussed above during your trial. For you to be able to raise these defenses, you require the experience and expertise of a law firm such as Vista Criminal Attorney. Our team is made up of attorneys who can successfully build for you a strong defense and enable you to possibly get the charges/penalties reduced or dismissed. For inquires on Vehicle code 2800.1 evading an officer, to talk about your case with utmost confidentiality, or if you are being investigated by law enforcement, make a call to our law firm at 760-691-1551 and get a highly qualified attorney to defend you aggressively. You need a strong defense team, therefore call today!