Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC prohibits evading an officer in a vehicle – which means willfully fleeing from a police officer, when the officer is pursuing you in a car or on a bike. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
2800.1 VC 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 you can raise if accused of evading an officer. These include showing that:
- you had no intent to evade,
- the police car did not have its flashing lights on, and/or
- you 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 you with misdemeanor (or summary probation).
Also note that, if you are convicted of an offense under this statute, this conviction will generally have no:
You can also seek to have it expunged once you successfully complete:
- probation (if imposed), or
- any jail time (if imposed).
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. When is it a crime to evade a police officer?
- 2. Are there legal defenses to Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC?
- 3. What are the penalties for evading police in a vehicle?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Can I get a conviction expunged?
- 6. Does a conviction affect my 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 to willfully evade the police in a vehicle.1
A prosecutor must prove three things to successfully convict you under this statute. These are:
- a police officer driving a motor vehicle was pursuing you,
- you were also driving a motor vehicle and 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,
- you 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 you” 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 you 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, you commit an act “willfully” when you do it willingly or on purpose.5
It is not required that you 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 to Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC?
You 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 you are only guilty under this code section if you flee 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 you to show that you did not act with this requisite intent.
2.2. No flashing lights on
Also recall that you are only guilty under this statute if the pursuing officer had at least one flashing red light on during the pursuit. Therefore, you can try to challenge an accusation by saying that no flashing light was on.
2.3. No willful act
A prosecutor must prove that you willfully fled the police in order to show you are guilty. A strong defense then is for you to show that you did not act willfully. For example, perhaps you 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 I get a conviction expunged?
Yes. Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases you 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 you:
- successfully completed probation (either felony probation or misdemeanor probation), and
- are not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation, or in jail.12
This means that once you have successfully completed probation for evading police or serving a jail term for the same, you may begin trying to get the crime expunged.
6. Does a conviction affect my gun rights?
A conviction under VC 2800.1 does not have an effect on your gun rights.
Note that some felony and misdemeanor convictions will result in you losing your right to own a gun in California.
Also note that some misdemeanors carry a 10-year firearm ban.
A conviction for evading police in a vehicle will not result in you losing ownership of your 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 to:
- evade a police officer in a motor vehicle, and
- in doing so, drive with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property (reckless driving).
Note that the willful or wanton disregard for the 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 to:
- evade a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle, and
- in doing so, proximately cause serious bodily injury or death of another person.
Note that unlike VC 2800.1 and 2800.2, this statute requires you to cause 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 to “disturb the peace.”
An example of “disturbing the peace” is purposefully disturbing another with loud and unreasonable noise.
Unlike VC 2800.1, this statute does not involve 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 consultation and legal advice. We can be reached 24/7.
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.” See, for example: People v. Howard (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1129;People v. Diaz (2005) 125 Cal.App.4th 1484; People v. Springfield (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 1674; People v. Leonard (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 275; People v. Pinkston (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 387; People v. Taylor (2018) 19 Cal.App.5th 1195; People v. Schumacher (1961) 194 Cal.App.2d 335; People v. Finney (1980) 110 Cal.App.3d 705; >People v. Garcia (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 1159.
- 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; People v. Brown (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 596; People v. Acevedo (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 195.
- CALCRIM No. 2182. Evading Peace Officer: Misdemeanor. See also People v. Mathews (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 485; People v. Estrella (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 716.
- California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.
- See same.