If you’ve lived in Southern California for any length of time, you’ve probably seen at least one of the many car chases that occur relatively regularly in the L.A. area shown on television. If, for some reason, you haven’t seen one, you’re not missing much and they’re more or less all the same.
They typically begin with a police officer attempting to pull the driver over for a routine traffic stop. The driver, for whatever reason (warrants, possession of a controlled substance, unpaid parking tickets, etc.), chooses to try and escape the police by speeding off. They then lead the police on a high-speed chase down the freeway or through the city until they are inevitably caught.
Once in custody, the suspect will be charged with at least one of three offenses, depending on the nature of their flight from police and what happened during the pursuit.
The first offense is California Vehicle Code 2800.1 — evading an officer. The charge of 2800.1 VC is described as someone fleeing from a law enforcement officer in a car or on a bicycle who is pursuing them. For example, suppose a police officer uses the lights and siren to pull over a minivan on a residential street. The driver of that van has a suspended driver’s license and doesn’t want to get caught. Therefore, instead of pulling over, the driver leads the police officer on a pursuit through the residential neighborhood.
As far as 2800.1 VC goes, it is a misdemeanor with the possible penalties of summary probation, up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 and impounding of the vehicle.
If, in an effort to evade police, the individual drives in a manner that is dangerous and/or reckless, they will probably be charged with California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC — felony reckless evading. Felony reckless evading is a “wobbler” and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor penalties include at least six months and no more than one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Felony convictions carry the possible penalties of 16 months to three years in California state prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
Finally, if someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of the suspect allegedly evading an officer (whether they drove recklessly or not is irrelevant), the driver will likely be charged with violating California Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC – evading an officer causing injury or death. If during the evasion someone is injured (and nobody is killed), then 2800.3 VC is a “wobbler.” Misdemeanor penalties include up to one year in county jail, while felony penalties include 3-7 years in California state prison. If someone is killed, then 2800.3 VC is always charged as a felony and carries the possible sentence of 4-10 years in California state prison.
All potential penalties of 2800.3 VC, whether misdemeanor or felony, include a fine of no less than $2,000 and no more than $10,000.