Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC is the California statute that defines the crime of evading an officer in a vehicle. This section makes it a crime for a person willfully to flee from a police officer, when the officer is pursuing the person in a car or on a bike.
This code section states that:
“Any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor…”
- while speeding, and with marijuana in her car, Nia drives off even faster after seeing a police vehicle in her rear-view mirror with sirens and flashing lights on.
- a police car tries to pull Peggy over for a broken taillight (a minor traffic violation), but instead of making the traffic stop, she flees from the car since she is driving on a suspended license.
- Maria notices a cop car speed behind her after she blows throw a stop sign, so she hits the gas and speeds off.
There are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of evading an officer. These include showing that:
- the defendant had no intent to evade,
- the police car did not have its flashing lights on, and/or
- the defendant did not act willfully.
The crime is punishable under California law by:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary probation).
Also note that, if a person is convicted of an offense under this statute, this conviction will generally have no:
A person convicted of this offense can also seek to have it expunged once he/she successfully completes:
- probation (if imposed), or
- any jail time (if imposed).
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is it a crime to evade a police officer?
- 2. Are there legal defenses?
- 3. What are the penalties for evading police in a vehicle?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
- 6. Does a conviction affect a person’s gun rights?
- 7. Are there crimes related to evading police?
1. When is it a crime to evade a police officer?
Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to willfully evade the police in a vehicle.1
A prosecutor must prove three things to successfully convict a defendant under this statute. These are:
- a police officer driving a motor vehicle was pursuing the defendant,
- the defendant, who was also driving a motor vehicle, willfully ﬂed from, or tried to elude, the officer, intending to evade the officer, and
- all of the following were true:
- there was at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front of the peace officer’s vehicle,
- the defendant either saw or reasonably should have seen the lamp,
- the peace officer’s vehicle was sounding a siren as reasonably necessary,
- the peace officer’s vehicle was distinctively marked, and
- the peace officer was wearing a distinctive police uniform.2
Note that the determination as to whether or not a police officer was “pursuing the defendant” is ultimately decided by a judge or jury examining all of the facts in a case.3
The same is true as to the determination of whether a defendant had the specific intent to evade an officer.4
Questions often arise under this statute on the meaning of:
- willfully, and
- distinctively marked and distinctive uniform.
Under this code section, someone commits an act “willfully” when he/she does it willingly or on purpose.5
It is not required that the person intended to:
- break the law,
- hurt someone else, or
- gain any advantage.6
1.2. Distinctively marked and distinctive uniform
2800.1 VC requires that the pursuing police car be distinctively marked and the pursuing cop to be wearing a distinctive uniform.
A vehicle is distinctively marked if it has features that are reasonably noticeable to other drivers, including:
- a red lamp,
- siren, and
- at least one other feature that makes it look different from vehicles that are not used for law enforcement purposes.7
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, without more, is not enough.8
2. Are there legal defenses?
A defendant can always try to beat an accusation of evading police with a legal defense.
Three possible defenses are:
- no intent to evade,
- no flashing lights on, and/or
- no willful act.
Should the case reach trial, the D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
2.1. No intent to evade
Recall that an accused is only guilty under this code section if he/she flees from a pursuing officer with the specific intent to evade, or escape or avoid, that officer or of evading arrest. This means it is always a legal defense for an accused to show that he/she did not act with this requisite intent.
2.2. No flashing lights on
Also recall that a defendant is only guilty under this statute if the pursuing officer had at least one flashing red light on during the pursuit. Therefore, a defendant can try to challenge an accusation by saying that no flashing light was on.
2.3. No willful act
A prosecutor must prove that a defendant willfully fled the police in order to show he/she was guilty. A strong defense then is for the accused to show that he/she did not act willfully. For example, perhaps an accused drove away from the police in order to escape a crash.
3. What are the penalties for evading police in a vehicle?
A violation of this statute is charged as a misdemeanor.9
The crime is punishable by:
- imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.10
4. Are there immigration consequences?
A conviction under this statute does not have negative immigration consequences.
Note that under United States immigration law, certain kinds of criminal convictions in California can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant “inadmissible.”
However, a VC 2800.1 guilty charge is not one of these types of convictions.
5. Can a person get a conviction expunged?
A person convicted under this code section can seek to get the offense expunged.
Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases an individual from virtually “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.11
As a basic rule, PC 1203.4 authorizes an expungement for a misdemeanor or felony offense provided the applicant:
- successfully completed probation (either felony probation or misdemeanor probation), and
- is not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation, or in jail.12
This means that once a defendant has successfully completed probation for evading police, or serving a jail term for the same, he/she may begin trying to get the crime expunged.
6. Does a conviction affect a person’s gun rights?
A conviction under VC 2800.1 does not have an effect on the convicted party’s gun rights.
Note that some felony and misdemeanor convictions will result in the defendant losing his/her rights to own a gun in California.
Also note that some misdemeanors carry a 10-year firearm ban.
But a conviction for evading police in a vehicle will not result in a person losing ownership of his/her gun or being banned from the gun for a period of time.
7. Are there crimes related to evading police?
There are three criminal charges related to evading the police. These are:
- felony reckless evading – VC 2800.2,
- evading causing injury or death – VC 2800.3, and
- disturbing the peace – PC 415.
7.1. Felony reckless evading – VC 2800.2
Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime when a person:
- evades a police officer in a motor vehicle, and
- in doing so, drives with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property (reckless driving).
Note that the willful or wanton disregard for safety of others is an extra element of proof that is not found within VC 2800.1.
7.2. Evading Causing Injury or Death – VC 2800.3
Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime when a person:
- evades a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle, and
- in doing so, proximately causes serious bodily injury or death of another person.
Note that unlike VC 2800.1 and 2800.2, this statute requires the defendant causing death or injury to a victim.
Also note that since this is a felony charge instead of misdemeanor evading, any incarceration takes place in state prison.
Finally, note that it may be possible for criminal defense lawyers to get a felony evading charge reduced to a misdemeanor as part of a plea bargain.
7.3. Disturbing the peace – PC 415
Penal Code 415 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to “disturb the peace.”
An example of “disturbing the peace” is when a person purposefully disturbs another with loud and unreasonable noise.
Unlike VC 2800.1, this statute does not involve a person fleeing from the police.
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys invite you to contact us for a free consultation and legal advice. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.
If you wish to create an attorney-client relationship, we can discuss discount rates and payment plans. We are based in Los Angeles but have law offices throughout the state of California, from San Francisco to San Diego.
For similar accusations in Nevada, please see our article on: “NRS 484B.550 ‘Evading Police’ laws in Nevada.”
For similar accusations in Colorado, please see our article on: “Eluding a Police Officer (Colorado 18-9-116.5 and 42-4-1413 C.R.S.).”
- California Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC. This code section states: “(a) Any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year if all of the following conditions exist:(1) The peace officer’s motor vehicle is exhibiting at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front and the person either sees or reasonably should have seen the lamp.(2) The peace officer’s motor vehicle is sounding a siren as may be reasonably necessary.(3) The peace officer’s motor vehicle is distinctively marked.(4) The peace officer’s motor vehicle is operated by a peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, and that peace officer is wearing a distinctive uniform.”
- CALCRIM No. 2182. Evading Peace Officer: Misdemeanor. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).
- People v. Flood (1998) 18 Cal.4th 470.
- See same.
- CALCRIM No. 2182. Evading Peace Officer: Misdemeanor.
- See same.
- See same. See also People v. Hudson (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1002.
- CALCRIM No. 2182. Evading Peace Officer: Misdemeanor. See also People v. Mathews (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 485.
- California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.
- See same.