California Vehicle Code § 2800 CVC makes it a crime to fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order or direction of any peace officer. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail.
Note that police will often write this section as 2800 VC or 2800 CVC as shorthand for the California Vehicle Code.
The language of the statute states that:
2800. (a) It is unlawful to willfully fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, when that peace officer is in uniform and is performing duties pursuant to any of the provisions of this code, or to refuse to submit to a lawful inspection pursuant to this code.
(b) (1) Except as authorized pursuant to Section 24004, it is unlawful to fail or refuse to comply with a lawful out-of-service order issued by an authorized employee of the Department of the California Highway Patrol or by an authorized enforcement officer as described in subdivision (d).
(2) It is unlawful for a driver transporting hazardous materials in a commercial motor vehicle that is required to display a placard pursuant to Section 27903 to violate paragraph (1).
(3) It is unlawful for a driver of a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, to violate paragraph (1).
(c) It is unlawful to fail or refuse to comply with a lawful out-of-service order issued by the United States Secretary of the Department of Transportation.
(d) “Out-of-Service order” means a declaration by an authorized enforcement officer of a federal, state, Canadian, Mexican, or local jurisdiction that a driver, a commercial motor vehicle, or a motor carrier operation is out-of-service pursuant to Section 386.72, 392.5, 392.9a, 395.13, or 396.9 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, state law, or the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.
- fleeing after a police officer tells you to remain still.
- failing to comply with a peace officer’s order to get out of a motor vehicle.
- driving through an emergency area that is closed off by law enforcement.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help you contest charges under this statute. A few common ones include lawyers showing that:
- you did not act willfully,
- the law enforcement officer was not performing their official duties when they gave an order, and/or
- you acted out of necessity.
The crime is punishable by:
- custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is it a crime to disobey a police officer?
- 2. Are there legal defenses to VC 2800 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. When is it a crime to disobey a police officer?
A district attorney must prove the following to successfully convict you under this statute:
- you willfully refused or failed to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a law enforcement officer, and
- the officer was in their distinctive uniform and was performing their duties at the time of the order.1
It is also a traffic violation under this statute for you to refuse to comply with a lawful out-of-service order issued by a member of the California Highway Patrol or by an authorized law enforcement agency.2
Law enforcement officers issue an out-of-service order if your vehicle is considered unsafe to operate or is not properly equipped.
2. Are there legal defenses to VC 2800 charges?
You have the right to contest charges under this statute with a legal defense. Note that a successful defense must convince a judge or jury that there is a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime.
Three common defenses to VC 2800 charges include you showing that:
- you did not act willfully.
- the peace officer was not performing their duties.
- you acted out of necessity.
2.1 No willful act
Disobeying an officer is a specific intent crime. This means you must have acted willfully to be found guilty under this law. A defense, then, is for you to show that you did not act with a willful purpose. For example, you do not willfully disobey an order if you failed to hear it or were confused by the direction.
2.2 Officer not performing their duties
Recall that you are only guilty under this code section if the officer that issued an order was:
- in uniform, and
- performing their duties.
Therefore, it is always a defense for you to show that the officer who issued an order did not do so in the course of their job (for example, an officer gave an order while the officer was off duty).
Under a necessity defense, you essentially try to avoid guilt by showing that you had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. In the context of a “disobeying an order charge”, you could attempt to show that you committed the crime since you had no other choice (for example, because of an emergency).
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of Vehicle Code 2800 is a misdemeanor.
The crime is punishable by:
- jail time of up to six months (as opposed to time in state prison), and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.3
Note that a judge does have the discretion to award you misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three laws related to VC 2800. These are:
- evading police in a vehicle – VC 2800.1,
- felony reckless evading – VC 2800.2, and
- resisting arrest – PC 148
4.1 Evading police in a vehicle – VC 2800.1
Pursuant to Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC, evading police in a vehicle is the offense where you:
- willfully flee from a police officer, and
- do so when the officer is pursuing you in a police officer’s motor vehicle, a peace officer’s motor vehicle, a police vehicle, or on a bike.4
As with disobeying an officer, this offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is sometimes referred to as “misdemeanor evading.”
4.2 Felony reckless evading – VC 2800.2
Pursuant to Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC, felony reckless evading is the crime where you:
- evade the police in a vehicle, and
- do so while engaging in reckless driving or driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property.5
Unlike violations under VC 2800, violations under this stature are wobbler offenses. A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor offenses under VC 2800.2 can result in up to one year in county jail.
Felony offenses can result in up to three years in state prison.
4.3 Resisting arrest – PC 148
Under Penal Code 148 PC, resisting arrest is where you willfully resist, delay, or obstruct law enforcement officers or emergency medical technicians in the performance of their official duties.6
As with VC 2800, PC 148 only prohibits willful acts. This means you can contest a charge by showing that you did not act willfully.
- California Vehicle Code 2800a VC. See also People v. McHugh (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 202; People v. Ritter (Cal. App. Dep’t Super. Ct. 1980), 115 Cal. App. 3d Supp. 1; McCorkle v. Los Angeles (Cal. 1969), 70 Cal. 2d 252, 74 Cal. Rptr. 389.
- California Vehicle Code 2800b1 VC.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.
- California Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC.
- CALCRIM 2181 – Evading Peace Officer.
- California Penal Code 148 PC.