Evading the Police

 

Evading a police officer has serious consequences

High-speed police chases are practically a sport here in the Los Angeles area. But as entertaining as they can be, evading the police in a motor vehicle - or on foot, a bicycle, or skateboard - is unlawful and carries serious consequences.

evading a police officer - torrance criminal defense attorney
evading a police officer - torrance criminal defense attorney

Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, a person convicted of evading a police officer may be charged with a misdemeanor and face imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year.

High speed police chase scenes are exciting and can even be fun to watch on TV or in a movie. However, evading a police officer in this manner is a crime and can have real consequences. Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, a motorist is guilty of evading a police officer when he or she “…willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle.”

The elements of the offense are the following:

  • The officer was pursuing the defendant
  • Both the officer and the defendant were operating a vehicle
  • The defendant intentionally fled from or tried to elude the police officer

If you have ever watched an episode of “Cops” or remember the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase, it probably does not surprise you that most cases of evasion of a police officer involve a police officer and a defendant who are both driving cars. However, a defendant can still be charged with evading a police officer if either the defendant or the police officer is operating a motorcycle or bicycle.

Punishment for a charge of evading a police officer

Under California Vehicle Code 2800.1, a person convicted of evading a police officer may be charged with a misdemeanor and face imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year.

Legal Defenses

  • Lack of Intent

The definition of the crime requires the defendant to willfully flee or otherwise attempt to elude a pursuing police officer. This means that the prosecutor must prove the defendant had the intent to flee from the police officer. For example, if you did not know you were being pursued by a police officer and failed to pull over, you cannot be guilty of willfully eluding a police officer. Similarly, if you were drunk driving and were too intoxicated to realize you were being pursued by the cops, you may be charged with a drunk driving offense but will not be guilty of eluding a police officer.

  • Necessity

If you realized you were being pursued but could not pull over or stop because of a significant danger to yourself or a passenger, you may be able to avoid a charge of evading a police officer at the court’s discretion. An example where this defense may apply would be where you were driving a gravely injured or pregnant person to the hospital and kept driving after a cop signaled you to pull over for speeding.