Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Failing to Yield, Evading Police & Reckless Driving in California

California law requires drivers to pull over to the side of the road when ordered to do so by a police officer.  Failure to comply may result in several serious penalties, depending on the circumstances.  This post will discuss some of the the legal differences between failing to stop for police, fleeing from police, and reckless driving.  Those things might sound similar, but there are big distinctions in the law and it's important to understand them.

VC 2800 says that drivers in California must obey the lawful orders of police officers.  Failure to obey a lawful order is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and fine of $1,000.00.  If you see red and blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror but you simply maintain your speed and ignore the cop, then you will be cited for a misdemeanor.  That part is easy.

If you attempt to flee, though, the penalty is doubled.  "Willfully fleeing or attempting to elude with intent to evade" a police officer is also a misdemeanor, but the maximum penalty is one year in jail.  This applies even if the cop is on a bicycle.  To be guilty of this violation, the DA must prove your intent -- that you "intended" to evade the police.  Trying to prove a defendant's mental state is not always as easy as it sounds.

If you drive recklessly while attempting to evade police, it get's even better.  Fleeing with "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property" is a "wobbler", which may be treated as a felony with a maximum sentence of 3 years in state prison.  If the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, it carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in jail.  If property damage occurs while you are fleeing from police, or if you commit three or more traffic violations during the chase, you will be charged under this section and not the more lenient code section described  in the previous paragraph.  

If you drive on the wrong side of the road while fleeing from police, tack on an additional 6 months - 1 year in custody.

If someone is injured while you are fleeing from police, the maximum penalty jumps to 7 years in state prison.  If someone is killed, make it 10 years.  You can probably also expect to be charged with vehicular manslaughter, or even murder.

There are many potential defenses to the charges described here.  As mentioned, it may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove the defendant's specific intent.  This is especially true when a defendant has engaged in a course of irrational conduct that culminates in a dangerous chase.

If you or a loved one is accused of failing to yield, fleeing from police or driving recklessly while attempting to evade police, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.