Charged with Evading Police: What Next?

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In California, evading arrest is a serious crime. If you were also driving recklessly or injured someone in the process, your penalties will be higher.

An evading police charge can carry some serious consequences and penalties, depending on the circumstances of your case.

What Is Evading Arrest?

The law for misdemeanor evading police in a vehicle is California Vehicle Code section §2800.1.

To be guilty of evading arrest, you must be driving a motor vehicle while willfully attempting to flee from a law-enforcement officer.

The prosecution must prove that you had the specific intent to evade arrest in order for it to be “willful.”Additionally, the officer’s car must be distinctively marked, or they must be riding a bicycle.

The law specifies that the car must have at least one red light that is visible to the driver, and the officer must be using the siren.

Distinctive markings also include logos or a seal printed on the vehicle. Other signs would be flashing lights or headlights.

If the officer is on a bicycle, they must give a verbal command and a hand signal to stop and use a horn. Whether on a bike or in a car, the officer must be in uniform.

An evading police charge under California Vehicle Code section §2800.1 is a misdemeanor. The penalty for evading police is up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, and the driver could have their car impounded for thirty days.

What Is Felony Evading?

Evading arrest can also be a felony under California Vehicle Code section §2800.2 for felony reckless driving. This law requires all of the same factors of Vehicle Code section §2800.1: 

  • The accused was driving a motor vehicle;
  • The accused was willfully attempting to flee from a law-enforcement officer; and
  • The officer in pursuit was in a distinctively-marked police car or on a bicycle.

Evading arrest becomes a possible felony when the person is driving with “wanton disregard for the safety of others.”

This means that they are aware that their actions pose an unreasonable risk of harm but they intentionally ignore the risk. 

Someone who causes property damage while evading arrest will probably be charged with felony reckless driving. It is not necessary to prove that the person intended to cause damage. 

Someone who commits three or more traffic violations that have points attached while evading arrest will be charged with felony reckless driving. It does not matter how dangerous those violations actually are.

Despite the name, felony reckless driving is a “wobbler” and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in California. In practice it is usually charged as a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty is six months to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. If charged as a felony, the confinement period is sixteen months, two years, or three years in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Additionally, the driver could have their car impounded for up to thirty days and their driver’s license suspended as a condition of probation. The judge can also suspend commercial licenses for a year. If the person is convicted of multiple felony evasion violations, they could lose their commercial license for life.

What If You Injure Someone While Evading Arrest?

The worst-case scenario is that you are found guilty of felony reckless driving while evading arrest and you injure or kill someone else in the process.

This is another wobbler offense under Vehicle Code §2800.3, depending on how much harm you caused and your criminal history.

As a misdemeanor, this offense carries a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail. As a felony, it is a maximum $10,000 fine and prison for three, five, or seven years.

If you kill someone else, the penalty is a $10,000 fine and prison for four, six, or ten years.

Are There Any Defenses to an Evading Police Charge?

If you have an evading the police charge, your attorney may be able to present one or more defenses on your behalf. Possible defenses include:

  • The police vehicle was not marked or the lights were not visible;
  • You could not pull over because of an emergency;
  • You did not intentionally evade arrest;
  • There is insufficient evidence of reckless driving;
  • The initial traffic stop was illegal; and
  • Voluntary intoxication.

The biggest issue for the prosecution is that they have to prove that you intentionally and willfully attempted to evade the police.

For example, if you did not stop because you feared the officer was not a real police officer and you felt unsafe, you may have a valid defense.

Other examples of valid defenses would be if you could not stop for a while because you did not have a safe place to pull over, or if you were rushing someone to the emergency room. 

Voluntary intoxication is an interesting defense because you are admitting that you were driving drunk in order to say that you did not have the intent necessary to evade the police.

On the one hand, you are admitting that you were driving under the influence. On the other hand, DUI is a misdemeanor in California and carries fewer penalties and stigma than a felony charge.

Your attorney may be able to work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor if you do not have any valid defenses for evading arrest. One such option would be a plea to reckless driving under Vehicle Code §23103.

Reckless driving is another wobbler offense in California. As a felony, it has the same penalties as felony evading.

But as a misdemeanor, it is only five to ninety days in jail and a $1,000 maximum fine.

What Do I Do Next?

If you have an evading the police charge, you should call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC.  Our firm practices only criminal defense.

We have excellent and experienced lawyers to represent and defend you, whether for a misdemeanor or felony. We understand that the criminal justice system can be intimidating and confusing.

We truly care about our clients and work very hard to ensure that they make it through with the least possible penalties.

It is crucial that you contact us as soon as possible for a consultation so that we may ensure the best possible outcome for your case. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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