Reckless evasion reasons for chases vary

In southern California, the “breaking news” bulletin frequently concerns the latest police chase. Swarms of television news helicopters provide viewers hours of coverage of men and women driving recklessly on southland freeways and surface streets in a futile attempt to escape pursing law enforcement officers.

Reasons for chases vary, but often, the suspect is fleeing from police due to an outstanding warrant or because they have recently committed a crime and are trying to make a getaway.

In the early 90’s, California had no period of mandatory jail time for this offense, and the fines were only $170 to $2,000. Then in the mid-to-late 90’s, California enacted legislation that imposed a minimum six-month jail sentence and substantially increased the fines. This was done in direct response to the many high-speed chases that, due to media coverage, were occurring with increased frequency.

Reckless evasion is covered by three sections of the California Vehicle Code

Section 2800.1 VC (Vehicle Code) covers misdemeanor charges of evasion. Any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year if certain conditions existed during the evasion.

Section 2800.2 VC of the California Vehicle Code makes a felony of the act of reckless fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer under specified conditions. The following are conditions or elements of the crime of felony reckless evasion:

The accused had willfully evaded an officer and, demonstrated a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others” while evading an officer. This violation will be considered a felony and will be charged as “felony reckless evading.” This crime carries a mandatory jail or prison sentence.

Section 2800.3 VC provides punishment for causing serious bodily injury or death to another person while evading (or are attempting to evade) an officer. This offense is a “wobbler”, which means that the prosecution can elect to file the charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts of the case, and the defendant’s criminal history.

An evasion that causes death or serious bodily injury to another, however, is most typically charged as a felony. This felony comes a mandatory three, five, or seven-year state prison sentence.

Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman