Category: Vehicular Offenses

Vehicular Offenses | NoCuffs

Misdemeanor Evading an Officer in California

Almost anyone can watch the news at some point and see a wild police chase. While extreme cases of  evading a peace officer or police officer do occur in California, most cases do not involve high speed pursuits across long distances.

 

Simply put, the State of California can convict drivers of evading a peace officer or police officer if the driver willfully attempts to flee from a law enforcement official who is pursuing the driver in a car or on a bicycle.

 

The prosecution must prove five elements of the crime of Misdemeanor Evading an officer under California State Vehicle Code 2800.1.

 

  1. The driver deliberately intended to evade the law enforcement official.
  2. The officer’s vehicle exhibited at least one red lamp on the front, which the driver either saw, or could have reasonably seen.
  3. The officer used a siren as necessary.
  4. The officer’s vehicle clearly displayed police markings
  5. An officer in uniform was operating the law enforcement vehicle.

 

police car chasing a vehicle

 

The State of California classifies violation of Vehicle Code 2800.1 as a misdemeanor for evading an officer. Related crimes include felony reckless evading under California Vehicle Code 2800.2, as well as evading an officer causing injury or death under California State Vehicle Code 2800.3.

 

Generally speaking, misdemeanor evading a police officer charges involve relatively low-risk police chases. The difference in risk becomes readily apparent, especially when compared to breaking news stories seen on nightly news stations.

The penalties for misdemeanor evading an officer include up to one year in county jail, and fines of up to $1,000. Furthermore, the vehicle used to evade the officer may be impounded for 30 days.

 

 

Examples

 

A man purchases a bag of cocaine and puts it in the glove compartment of his car. On his drive home, the man speeds through an intersection. A police officer sees him speeding and turns on his lights and sirens in an attempt to pull him over. The man, however, is terrified of being caught with drugs in his car and speeds away from the police officer.

 

A woman loses a DUI case, and loses her license to drive. However, she chooses to drive anyway in order to transport herself to and from work. On her way home from work one day, a police officer sees that one of her brake light is out. The police officer turns on his siren and lights and tries to pull the woman over. She panics and begins to weave in and out of traffic because she does not want to be convicted of driving without a license.

 

A commercial truck driver behind the wheel of a long multi-trailer rig knows the vehicle is overweight. He sees a highway patrol officer turn on his vehicle lights and begin to pursue him. The truck driver knows he may face punishment from his employer due to the vehicle’s weight, but chooses to keep driving instead of pulling over.

 

 

Defining Misdemeanor Evading an Officer in California, Vehicle Code 2800.1

 

California State Criminal Jury Instructions 2181, Evading a Peace Officer, describe the necessary elements of this crime as follows:

  • A peace officer in a vehicle was pursuing the defendant, who was also driving a vehicle
  • The defendant intended to evade the peace officer
  • While driving, the defendant willfully fled from, or tried to elude, the pursuing peace officer
    • All of the following were true:
      a.   There was at least one lit red lamp visible from the front of the officer’s vehicle
      b.    The defendant either saw, or should have reasonably seen, the lamp
      c.    The peace officer’s vehicle was sounding a siren as necessary
      d.    The peace officer’s vehicle was distinctively marked
      e.    The peace officer was wearing a distinctive uniform

 

People can also be convicted of evading an officer while fleeing from an officer riding a bicycle.

 

the scales of justice

 

Elements of the crime

 

The essential elements of the crime involve the drivers intent, the officer’s vehicle, and the officer’s uniform. Each one functions in a particular manner under California State law.

 

 

Driver Intent

 

One of the most important elements of evading an officer is the driver’s intent. The prosecution must prove that the driver evaded the police officer with specific intent.

 

“Willfully” refers to the deliberate intent of the driver.

 

Specific intent crimes require the prosecution to prove that the defendant specifically intended to perform the criminal act.

 

The prosecution does not need to prove that the driver intended to break the law, hurt someone else, or to gain an advantage.

 

However, if the driver fled from the officer under a different rationalization, then the driver can build an effective legal defense against evading an officer charges.

 

 

Example A

 

Meredith recently turned 68 years old and is beginning to exhibit early signs of dementia. Sometimes while driving she loses focus and becomes disoriented.

One Sunday afternoon, Meredith drives through a 35 mph section of the road at 55 mph. A police officer sees her driving above the speed limit and attempts to pull her over.

 

Meredith does not understand that the officer’s flashing lights and siren are the officer’s signals for her to pull over. Consequently, she continues to speed down the same street at 55 miles an hour with the police officer chasing her.

 

The prosecution most likely could not prove that Meredith evaded the officer willfully. Therefore, Meredith probably could not be convicted of evading a police officer.

 

 

Example B

 

Another example involves a married couple, Phyllis and Bob. Phyllis is 9 months pregnant and begins to go into labor. Bob recognizes that her contractions have begun and decides to drive her straight to the hospital.

 

After leaving their house, Bob drives as fast as he possibly can, regardless of the speed limit. After a few miles, he sees a police officer behind him with his lights on and his siren blaring.

Bob chooses to ignore the police officer and continues driving to the hospital as quickly as possible.

 

When they all arrive at the hospital, the police officer arrests Bob for evading an officer, while Bob’s wife goes straight to Delivery. Bob’s intent, however, was not to deliberately evade a police officer. Bob drove quickly in order to get his wife to the hospital as soon as possible. Under this rationale, the prosecution could not prove him guilty of evading an officer.

 

handcuffs

 

Officer Vehicle

 

California State Vehicle Code 2800 .1 describes the particular markings and equipment on an officer’s vehicle that are necessary to support a charge of misdemeanor evading:

  1. The vehicle must have at least one lit red lamp visible from the front of the vehicle
  2. The officer must sound the siren as often as reasonably necessary
  3. The officer’s vehicle must be distinctly marked through some means other than the red lamp and siren

 

These distinct markings can include:

  • The seal or name of the police or law enforcement department on the outside of the car
  • Flashing blue or clear lights visible to the driver
  • Wigwag lights, or flashing headlights

 

These distinctive markings are an integral part of the support for evading an officer charges.  If the law enforcement vehicle does not have at least three of these distinctive markings, the defendant cannot be charged with evading an officer.

Example

 

Jim, a police officer, drives a vehicle equipped with only a siren, a red light under the rear-view mirror, and a blue amber blinking light in the back.

Jim sees a car run a stoplight. The driver of the other car, Dwight, begins to speed away.

As Dwight speeds off in his car, Jim follows him in his police vehicle. Jim turns on his red light, his siren, and his blinking blue light in the back. However, Dwight does not pull over and continues to run stop signs in order to get away from the officer.

Eventually the police officer catches up to Dwight. Jim finds heroin in the car and charges Dwight with both the transportation of a controlled substance and VC 2800.1.

The prosecutors, however, cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dwight could see the blinking blue light.  Consequently, the officer’s car does not qualify as being distinctively marked apart from the red light and siren. As a result, the prosecution cannot prove Dwight guilty of evading an officer.

 

 

Officer’s Uniform

 

Under Vehicle Code 2800.1, officers pursuing drivers must be in a “distinctive uniform.”

The California State Juror instructions 2182 explain the uniform requirements as follows:

A “distinctive uniform” means clothing adopted by a law enforcement agency to identify or distinguish members of its force. The uniform does not have to be complete or of any particular level of formality. However, a badge is not enough.

Example

Police officers arrest Creed for felony firearm charges as well as for misdemeanor charges for evading an officer after they chase him through downtown streets in their police vehicle.

One of the officers who pursues Creed is wearing a bulletproof vest over her shirt, as well as a vest  which reads “Police” in bright yellow lettering. She is also wearing a gun belt during the pursuit.

The other officer is in street clothes. However, he is wearing a police department jacket, a gun belt, and a baseball cap with “Police” written across the front.

 

Although the officers are not wearing complete and formal blue or black uniforms, their clothing clearly indicates their status as police officers. Consequently, the prosecution could effectively convict Creed of evading an officer.

 

 

Penalties under State Vehicle Code 2800.1 for Evading an Officer in California

 

As the name misdemeanor evading an officer implies, California State Law defines Vehicle Code 2800.1 as a misdemeanor.

 

The potential penalties include:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • The impoundment of the vehicle used to evade the officer for up to 30 days

 

In addition, the judge may suspend the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of time as a condition of robation

 

The State may only charge a driver for one count of evading a police officer per event. The number of officers involved does not determine how many charges the defendant will face.

 

 

Commercial Driver’s License Suspension

 

Commercial driver’s license holders who commit a single misdemeanor evading an officer crime in a commercial vehicle lose the right to operate a commercial vehicle for one year. Multiple convictions can lead to the permanent suspension of the driver’s commercial driver’s license if the offenses occurred behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.

 

theft, fraud, robbery, crime, criminal law

 

Related Crimes

 

California State Penal Code 415, Disturbing the Peace

If the prosecution can find only weak evidence, but does not dismiss the evading an officer charges completely, the prosecution may suggest a plea bargain under Penal Code 415 PC, Disturbing the Peace.

“Disturbing the Peace” convictions carry a potential county jail sentence of no more than 90 days and a potential fine of no more than $400.

The most significant advantage of disturbing the peace charges, as opposed to evading an officer charges, is the fact that disturbing the peace charges carry less of a stigma on a criminal record than evading on officer charges..

 

 

California State Vehicle Code 2800.2 Felony Reckless Evading an Officer

Individuals who commit the crime of evading an officer, as described in Vehicle Code 2800, with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, may face felony Reckless evading an officer charges under Vehicle Code 2800.2.

 

Felony reckless evading an officer qualifies as a California wobbler. Wobblers may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. However, California prosecutors usually choose to pursue felony charges.

If the prosecution charges the crime as a felony, a reckless evading charge carries a potential state prison sentence of sixteen months to three years, as well as fines of up to $10,000.

 

 

California State Vehicle Code 2800.3 Evading Causing Injury or Death

If a driver evades an officer as described in Vehicle Code 2800.1, and in the process he or she causes the serious bodily injury or death of another person, then the prosecution will pursue charges under Vehicle Code 2800.3, California’s evading an officer causing injury or death law.

If the act of evading an officer causes only serious bodily injury, then the state considers the crime as a wobbler. The potential California felony penalties include three to seven years in state prison.

 

However, if the driver evades an officer and causes the death of another person, the potential penalty increases to four to ten years in state prison.

 

man in handcuffs

 

Understanding Misdemeanor Evading an Officer Charges under California Vehicle Code 2800.1

 

The State of California charges drivers with evading a peace officer under Vehicle Code 2800.1 if, while driving a motor vehicle, the driver willfully attempts to flee from a police officer who pursues him or her in a car or on a bicycle.

 

The prosecution must prove the elements of the crime, including the following:

  1. The driver specifically intended to evade the officer
  2. The officer’s vehicle exhibited at least one lit lamp visible from the front, thus making it reasonably easy to see
  3. Sirens on the officer’s vehicle were sounded as necessary
  4. The officer’s vehicle was distinctively marked
  5. The officer’s vehicle was operated by a law enforcement official who wore a distinctive uniform

 

A conviction of misdemeanor evading an officer carries the following penalties:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines of up to $1,000

Furthermore, the vehicle used to evade an officer may be impounded for up to 30 days.

 

 

Defending Against California Misdemeanor Evading an Officer

 

The prosecution bears the burden of proof in every criminal case, and defendants deserve to fight for their civil liberties as guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States. An experienced criminal defense attorney can investigate the situation, and unravel what happened in order to effectively defend the accused individual.

By acquiring information on the driver and the situation, a skilled defense attorney may be able to show a lack of specific intent on the part of the driver.

Drivers can only be convicted if the prosecution can prove that the driver specifically intended to evade the officer who was pursuing him or her. There can be many reasons for a driver not to stop when a police officer is pursuing him or her:  The driver could have been distracted and didn’t realize that the officer was signaling for him or her to pull over. The driver could have feared for his or her well-being in the neighborhood where the offense occurred and did not stop. The driver was not able to determine if the individual following him was indeed a police officer due to  insufficient markings on the officer’s vehicle.

Law enforcement protocol exists for a reason, and citizens deserve a legitimate opportunity to fight for their rights.

Driving in California With A Suspended or Revoked License

Driving in California with a suspended or revoked license is prohibited under vehicle code 14601 .  However, a key factor in determining a verdict revolves around the driver’s knowledge of the suspension or revocation.

 

California treats the crime of driving with a suspended or revoked license more severely than driving without a license. Driving without a license refers to individuals who have never had a license. The state considers driving with a suspended or revoked license to be more serious because the DMV suspended or revoked the individual’s driver’s license for a reason. Moreover, by driving anyway, the individual disregards the ruling of the DMV.

 

The State of California classifies driving with a suspended or revoked license to be a misdemeanor offense, and convictions can result in jail time as well as substantial fines.

 

Injustice system court gavel hits person needing bail bond

 

To officially suspend or revoke a driver’s license, the State of California must send the message of suspension or revocation in one of three ways: by certified mail, by an officer serving the individual with a notice of suspension or revocation, or by a judge (in court) recommending a license suspension or revocation. If the state sent the message in one of these ways, the state will then presume that the individual knew of the suspension or revocation.

 

People accused of driving with a suspended or revoked license have a constitutional right to defend themselves in court. An effective defense attorney acts as a resource that can reduce the great imbalance of power between the American government and the American citizens. A skilled defense attorney challenges the state to be fairer, more accurate, and more just by diligently researching and investigating the situation in question.

 

Defining Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License in California

 

California state prosecutors must prove specific elements of the crime in order to convict someone of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

 

The elements include:

 

  1. The defendant drove a motor vehicle while his or her California driver’s license was suspended or revoked
  2. The defendant knew that his or her driving privileges had been suspended or revoked at the time

 

 

Element One

 

The first element concerns only a simple fact: either the individual in question was driving, or was not driving, at the time of the arrest. The officer’s testimony, together with other evidence, determines this element.

 

 

Element Two

 

The second element concerns knowledge of the suspension or revocation.

 

In order to presume that an individual had knowledge of the suspension or revocation, one of three things must have happened.

 

  • A certified mail carrier had delivered a letter of revocation or suspension from the DMV to the driver.
  • A police officer had served a notice of suspension or revocation to the driver at the time of arrest
  • A judge had informed the driver of a suspension or revocation during sentencing for a prior crime

 

Even if one of these three things did occur, it only creates a presumption of knowledge. It does not prove that the individual had knowledge of the suspension or revocation. In a jury trial, the prosecution will typically create a presumption, leading  the jury to conclude that the driver had knowledge of the suspension or revocation.

 

A skilled criminal defense attorney will build a case that challenges this presumption of guilt.

 

mail man and letter

 

Suspension or Revocation by Letter

 

The law presumes the individual received a letter if the prosecution can prove three things.

  1. The California DMV mailed the individual a notice of revocation or suspension
  2. A mail carrier delivered the notice to the individual’s most recently reported address
  3. The mail carrier did not return the DMV notice as undeliverable or unclaimed.

 

 

Example

 

Stanley suffers a traumatic brain injury, leaving him with severely limited cognitive abilities. For his safety and the safety of others, his family and doctor contact the DMV to revoke Stanley’s driving privileges.

Since the accident, Stanley has moved into an assisted living facility. The DMV sends the notice of revocation to his former address. The U.S. Postal Service returns the letter to the DMV as undeliverable.

 

In this case, if a police officer pulled Stanley over, he could not be arrested for driving with a revoked license. The DMV notice never reached Stanley. Therefore, the court may not presume that he had knowledge of the license revocation.

 

Suspension or Revocation by Verbal Order

 

The law may also presume that a driver knew of his or her license suspension or revocation if he or she received a verbal notice:

  1. A police officer may personally serve a notice of suspension or revocation at the time of arrest
  2. A judge may inform the driver of a suspension or revocation at a sentencing hearing for a prior violation that resulted in the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license.

 

 

Example

 

Again using Stanley as our example, things could be very different with just a few changes in circumstances.

 

After Stanley moves into the assisted living facility, new tenants began to rent his house.

When the DMV revocation letter arrives in the mail, the new tenants throw it out, and the US Postal Service never returns the letter as undeliverable. This scenario creates a presumption of guilt even though Stanley never received the letter.

 

The presumption does not indicate Stanley’s guilt under Vehicle Code 14601. Stanley’s criminal defense attorney can point out that he had moved, and therefore never received the letter of revocation.

 

gavel and scales of justice

 

California Laws Regarding Driving With a Suspended or Revoked License

 

California State Vehicle Code 14601 can only be used to suspend or revoke an individual’s driver’s license if the suspension or revocation is valid. Valid driver’s license suspensions and revocations are covered in a variety of sections of the code.

The State of California may suspend or revoke driving privileges under Vehicle Code 14601 for specific offenses, general offenses, DUI, habitual traffic offenses, or chemical test refusal and other DUI related offenses.

 

 

Vehicle Code 14601

Specific offenses leading to license suspension or revocation include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Physical or mental limitations inhibiting safe driving
  • Being declared a negligent or incompetent operator.

 

Vehicle Code 14601.1

General offenses may also lead to a license suspension or revocation under Vehicle Code 14601.1. This section serves as a catch-all for prohibiting individuals from driving with a suspended or revoked license for any reason.

 

Vehicle Code 14601.2

In California, a serious consequence of a DUI conviction is the suspension or revocation of an individual’s driver’s license. Vehicle code 14601.2 punishes individuals for driving with the knowledge that his or her license has been suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction. In California, DUI includes DUI resulting from drug use as well as DUI resulting in injury to another person. Vehicle Code 14601.2 lists all of these types of DUIs, and provides the foundation for charging an individual for driving with a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI conviction.

 

Vehicle Code 14601.3

Habitual traffic offenders may have their driver’s licenses suspended or revoked. Vehicle Code 14601.3 prohibits habitual traffic offenders from accumulating a history of driving problems while their driving privileges are suspended or revoked. Vehicle Code 14601.3 states that a driver becomes a habitual traffic offender under the following circumstance:

During a 12-month period, the driver is convicted of any combination of the offenses listed below, with the resulting suspension or revocation of his or her driver’s license.

  1. Two or more serious driving-related crimes, such as reckless driving or exhibition of speed
  2. Three or more general moving violations, such as speeding
  3. Three or more accidents causing injury or property damage totaling at least $750.

 

Vehicle Code 14601.5

Chemical test refusal in other DUI offenses may result in a driver’s license being suspended or revoked. Vehicle Code 14601.5 prohibits drivers from knowingly driving with a license suspended or revoked due to the following:

  • Chemical test refusal
  • California DUI under 21
  • Refusing a preliminary alcohol screening after being suspected of driving under the influence while on probation for DUI
  • Driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 percent or greater while on probation for California DUI
  • Driving with a 0.04% blood alcohol content or greater if the driver holds a commercial driver’s license

 

jail cells

 

Penalties for Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License

 

The State of California classifies driving with a suspended or revoked license as a misdemeanor offense. Potential penalties include fines and county jail time. However, the specific state-sanctioned punishment is determined by the following: the reason for a driver’s license suspension or revocation, any prior convictions relating to license suspension or revocation, and the individual’s driving history.

 

First-time offenders face various penalties depending on the specific violation.

Vehicle Code

14601

License revoked or suspended for specific offenses, including reckless driving, alcohol or drug addiction, negligent operator, physical or mental condition5 days to 6 months in county jailFines from $300 to $1000
Vehicle Code

14601.1

License revoked or suspended for general reasons which are not listed in other statutesUp to 6 months in county jail, no minimumFines from $300 to $1000
Vehicle Code

14601.2

License revoked or suspended for DUI10 days to 6 months in county jailFines from $300 to $1000
Vehicle Code

14601.3

Habitual traffic offenders while license suspended or revoked30 days in county jailFines up to $1000
Vehicle Code

14601.5

License revoked or suspended for chemical test refusals and DUI-related offensesUp to 6 months in county jail, no minimumFines from $300 to $1000

 

 

 

Driver’s License Reinstatement

 

Driver’s license suspensions expire. However, drivers still need to act in order to reinstate their driving privileges.

 

The California DMV explains that in order to reinstate driving privileges, an individual must visit a California DMV office in person with the required documentation. He or she must then pay the fines to the State of California. The driver must also prove that he or she completed all probation requirements.

 

we the people

 

Understanding Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License in California

 

California Vehicle Code 14601 prohibits individuals from knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked license.

 

The law contains various sections, and punishes convicted drivers differently depending on the specific section that he or she violated.

 

California law classifies driving with a suspended or revoked license as a misdemeanor crime.

In order to convict an individual of driving with a suspended or revoked license, the prosecution must prove two elements of the crime.

  1. The individual was driving the vehicle
  2. He or she understood that his or her license was suspended or revoked

 

The driver’s knowledge is an integral part of the crime. Moreover, if the driver did not know of the suspension or revocation, then he or she cannot be proven guilty of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

 

A skilled criminal defense attorney can help the individual stand up against the court system. Defense lawyers hold the court accountable by representing people accused of crimes. Furthermore, without experienced legal counsel, it is almost impossible to obtain a positive outcome in a driving with a suspended or revoked license case.

 

However, most people do not have the time, energy, or resources available to research and investigate the situation with enough specificity to build a successful defense.

 

Hit and Run Charges in California: Hit and Run Causing Property Damage

hit and run

It’s a crime in California to leave the scene after being involved in or causing an accident. Any driver who does so can be charged with misdemeanor or a felony hit-and-run. The severity of the charges depends on whether the accident involved property damage, bodily injury, or death. Regardless of the charges, it’s imperative to have an expert defense attorney protecting the driver’s rights. The skilled defense lawyers of The Kavinoky Law Firm are experienced in every aspect of defending California hit-and-run cases, and will work hard to minimize or even eliminate the consequences for a driver charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Leaving the scene of an accident that involves only property damage is a less severe hit and run charge in California when compared to a hit-and-run involving bodily injury or death.  However, the driver in a hit-and-run property damage charge still faces serious repercussions. A driver convicted of hit-and-run with property damage – even if the driver didn’t cause the accident – faces punishment up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. In some cases, the driver also must forfeit the vehicle.

If the driver is alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the hit-and-run crash, there may be a DUI / DWI charge in addition to any allegations of leaving the scene of an accident. A motorist convicted of drunk driving and hit-and-run faces extreme consequences that can include prison time. These are extremely serious charges that require an expert defense attorney.

Fortunately, a driver who is accused of leaving the scene of an accident in California has many options available that may help to soften or even eliminate the consequences of a hit-and-run charge. The first option is to aggressively fight the charges. There are many viable defenses to a California hit-and-run charge. Remember, the prosecutor has the burden of proving the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense could offer no evidence at all of the driver’s innocence, and if the prosecutor hasn’t proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the driver cannot be convicted.

In some cases, it may be possible to reach what is known as a civil compromise, in which the accused driver agrees to pay for all property damage and medical expenses, if any. If the other party agrees to a civil compromise and the accused driver reimburses all expenses, no criminal charges will be filed in connection with the alleged hit-and-run accident.

Certain cases require creative resolutions on the part of both the defense and the prosecution. The driver may be eligible for alternative sentencing such as community service or other options that can reduce or even eliminate a potential jail sentence. Other options may include CalTrans work or electronic monitoring. Although some sentencing alternatives may seem less than desirable, anything that helps the accused hit-and-run driver avoid time in jail is well worth considering.

Another option in a California hit-and-run case is a plea bargain. With the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the driver may be able to plead guilty to a lesser charge with reduced repercussions. However, a plea bargain should be just what the name implies – a good deal for both the driver and the prosecutor. The prosecution is more likely to offer a favorable plea bargain when it’s case isn’t particularly strong.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a California hit-and-run arrest, the experienced defense lawyers of The Kavinoky Law Firm will be able to reduce or even eliminate the consequences. Contact a skilled defense attorney today for a consultation.