As residents of Los Angeles County, we’re no stranger to high-speed pursuits. Oddly enough, several of those pursuits find their way through or near the Santa Clarita Valley. Thanks to the SCV’s location near the 5, 14, and 210 freeways, it’s really easy to get here if you’re fleeing the police. Of course, fleeing the police isn’t the best way to see the sights of the Santa Clarita Valley.
California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC covers the crime of felony reckless evading. It can be charged (along with 2800.1 VC – the lesser misdemeanor charge) when you evade the police in a vehicle and drive with a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property. Basically, if you flee the police in a motor vehicle and drive relatively safely while doing so, you’re likely to be charged with 2800.1 VC, if you drive like a maniac, you’re likely to be charged with 2800.2 VC.
For example, a person steals a vehicle and a police officer attempts to pull him over. Instead of complying or just continuing on as he was doing, the suspect speeds away and runs stop signs and red lights while doing so. When caught, the suspect would likely face two felony charges: grand theft auto and felony reckless evading.
One doesn’t necessarily have to be fleeing a crime to be charged with felony reckless evading. Suppose a person is driving and a police officer attempts to pull them over for not using their turn signal. Not wanting to have to talk to police, the suspect speeds off, causing surrounding cars to veer into each other to avoid hitting the suspect. The suspect in this case, if caught, would likely face charges of violating 2800.2 VC.
In order to be charged with fleeing a police officer, that officer actually has to be pursuing you. A good example of this would be someone driving on a suspended license and has a police car behind them. The officer gets a call and turns on the lights and siren so they can respond, but the driver thinks that the officer is trying to pull him over so he speeds off and runs several stop signs. If the driver is eventually caught, he will, at the very least, receive a ticket for running a stop sign and possibly for speeding, as well as being charged with driving on a suspended license. However, since the police officer wasn’t actually after the driver, they would not face charges of 2800.2 VC.
The term “felony” reckless evading is a bit misleading because the crime is actually a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The defendant’s prior criminal history as well as the circumstances of the case will be taken under consideration by prosecutors, though more often than not, violations of 2800.2 VC result in felony charges. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties include misdemeanor probation, 6 months to 1 year in county jail, and/or a $1,000 fine. Felony penalties include formal probation, 16 months to 3 years in California state prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.