Vehicle Code 2800 CVC is the California statute that defines the crime of disobeying a police officer. People commit this offense when they willfully refuse or fail to comply with a lawful order or direction of any peace officer. A violation 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.
- a person flees after a police officer tells him/her 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 clients contest charges under this statute. A few common ones include lawyers showing that:
- the defendant did not act willfully,
- the law enforcement officer was not performing his/her official duties when he/she gave an order, and/or
- the accused 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 a defendant under this statute:
- the defendant willfully refused or failed to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a law enforcement officer, and
- the officer was in his/her distinctive uniform and was performing his/her duties at the time of the order.1
It is also a traffic violation under this statute for a person 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 a person’s vehicle is considered unsafe to operate or is not properly equipped.
2. Are there legal defenses to VC 2800 charges?
Defendants 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 the accused committed a crime.
Three common defenses to VC 2800 charges include defendants showing that:
- they did not act willfully.
- the peace officer was not performing his/her duties.
- they acted out of necessity.
2.1 No willful act
Disobeying an officer is a specific intent crime. This means a defendant must have acted willfully to be found guilty under this law. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that he/she did not act with a willful purpose. For example, a person does not willfully disobey an order if he/she failed to hear it or was confused as to its direction.
2.2 Officer not performing his/her duties
Recall that an accused is only guilty under this code section if the officer that issued an order was:
- in uniform, and
- performing his/her duties.
Therefore, it is always a defense for defendants to show that the officer who issued an order did not do so in the course of his/her job (for example, an officer gave an order while the officer was off duty).
Under a necessity defense, a defendant essentially tries to avoid guilt by showing that he/she had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. In the context of a disobeying an order charge, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he/she 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 a defendant with 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 people:
- willfully flee from a police officer, and
- do so when the officer is pursuing the person 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 people:
- 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 with 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 the crime where people 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 a defendant can contest a charge by showing that he/she did not act willfully.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our lawyers also represent clients throughout California State, including those in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Bernardino.