Felony reckless evading – Cal. Vehicle Code 2800.2
by Don Hammond, Criminal Defense Attorney
Felony reckless evading occurs when a person attempts to flee from or elude a law enforcement officer while driving a motor vehicle, and, in doing so, acts with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others or property. This willful or wanton disregard is the linchpin differentiating misdemeanor evading (2800.1 VC) from felony reckless evading (2800.2).
WILLFUL OR WANTON DISREGARD
For the purposes of this statute, the term willful means the defendant had specific intent to evade police. A person acts with willful and wanton disregard if they are aware that their actions create an unjustifiable risk of harm and they ignore that risk intentionally. Neither the intent to harm or actual harm is necessary to qualify as an offense. It is merely the awareness of the risk and choosing to ignore it that characterizes this crime.
ELEMENTS OF THE CRIME
For a conviction under 2800.2 VC, the prosecution must successfully prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the following three elements:
- A peace officer in a motorized vehicle was in pursuit of the defendant;
- Defendant willfully tried to flee or elude the peace officer while driving a vehicle, and with willful or wanton disregard for safety of people and/or property;
- The peace officer and vehicle were clearly and distinctively marked.
To fulfill element 3 above, the peace officer must have been wearing a distinctive uniform, and the vehicle must have had:
- A minimum of one red lamp, lighted and visible when viewed from the front of the police vehicle, that the defendant saw or should have reasonably seen.
- A siren that was operated as reasonably necessary.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FELONY RECKLESS EVADING
In contrast with its name, felony reckless evading is a wobbler that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. But in most cases, the offense is charged and prosecuted as a felony.
For a felony conviction of 2800.2 VC, the defendant may be subject to any or all of:
- 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
- Formal probation.
For a misdemeanor conviction under 2800.2 VC, the criminal penalties include any or all of:
- Six months to one year in county jail.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Summary probation.
In addition to the above penalties, individuals convicted under 2800.2 VC may face vehicle impoundment and driver’s license suspension.
DEFENSES TO A CHARGE OF FELONY RECKLESS EVADING
Several legal defenses can be used to fight charges of violating 2800.2 VC. Only an experienced traffic attorney can advise which strategy is most appropriate given the circumstances of the alleged offense. Possible defenses include:
- Lack of the necessary intent to willfully evade a police officer.
- Insufficient evidence.
- The arrest was the result of an illegal stop.
- Voluntary intoxication. Of course, this will likely result in other charges such as driving under the influence (23152 VC).
Due to the potentially serious criminal penalties and possible loss of driving privileges, consulting with a qualified attorney is highly recommended.
Are you or someone you care about charged felony reckless evading under California Vehicle Code 2800.2? Contact Long Beach traffic defense attorney Don Hammond. Mr. Hammond represents clients in Long Beach and the South Bay area of Los Angeles, including Signal Hill, Lakewood, Carson, Gardena, Inglewood, Lomita, San Pedro, Wilmington, and surrounding communities.