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Evading Police Charges in California
- Vehicle Code §2800.1 & §2800.2 -

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Evading Police - VC 2800.1 & VC 2800.2

California law requires a motorist to pull their vehicle to the side of the road whenever directed to do so by police.


If a motorist refuses to pull over after being directed to do so, then the motorist may be guilty of evading a peace officer. Evading police can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor evading is charged pursuant to Vehicle Code §2800.1, while felony evading is charged pursuant to Vehicle Code §2800.2.


The charges are very similar in that both deal with motorists attempting to evade or elude police, however, felony evasion also requires that the motorist operate the vehicle with “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

It is always recommended that someone charged with evading police contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for assistance. The following information is only intended to provide a general understanding of California's evading laws. 

1.  What are the elements of evading police?

Before anyone can be convicted of a crime in California, the prosecutor must prove all of the essential components of the crime. The essential components of a crime are called the “elements” of the crime.

Elements of Evading Police in Violation of VC 2800.1

To find someone guilty of misdemeanor evading police for violating vehicle code section 2800.1, a jury must find all of the following true beyond a reasonable doubt:​

  1. A peace officer driving a motor vehicle was pursuing you;

  2. You willfully tried to elude or flee from the officer;

  3. There was at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front of the peace officer’s vehicle;

  4. You either saw or reasonably should have seen the lamp;

  5. The peace officer’s vehicle was sounding a siren as reasonably necessary;

  6. The peace officer’s vehicle was distinctively marked; AND

  7. The peace officer was wearing a distinctive uniform.

Willfulness:  Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.

Marked Vehicle:  A vehicle is distinctively marked if it has features that are reasonably noticeable to other drivers, including a red lamp, siren, and at least one other feature that makes it look different from vehicles that are not used for law enforcement purposes.

Distinctive Uniform:  A distinctive uniform means clothing adopted by a law enforcement agency to identify or distinguish members of its force. The uniform does not have to be complete or of any particular level of formality. However, a badge, without more, is not enough.

Elements of Evading Police in Violation of VC 2800.2

To find you guilty of Vehicle Code §2800.2, a jury must find all of the following to be true beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The driver eluded police in violation of Vehicle Code §2800.1, discussed above; AND

  2. In doing so, you do one of the following:

  • Operated the vehicle in willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property;


  • ​​Caused property damage; OR


  • ​During the pursuit, you committed three or more traffic violations, each of which would make you eligible for a traffic violation point.

High Speed Chase

A high speed chase will almost certainly be considered a wanton disregard for the safety of others. 

​Wanton Disregard:  A person acts with wanton disregard for safety when (1) he or she is aware that his or her actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm,  AND (2) he or she intentionally ignores that risk.

The person does not, however, have to intend to cause damage.

2.  What are the penalties for evading police?

The penalties for evading police depend on the particular charges the person is facing. The penalties may also depend on the severity of the charges.

Penalties for Evading Police in Violation of VC 2800.1 –

The maximum penalty for evading police in violation of vehicle code section 2800.1 is: 

  1. Imprisonment in the county jail for up to 1-year;

  2. A fine of up to $1,000; OR

  3. Both that fine and imprisonment.

Additionally, the vehicle used as the instrument in evading the police may be impounded for up to 30 days.

Penalties for Evading Police in Violation of VC 2800.2

Although, Vehicle Code §2800.2 is commonly referred to as “felony evading”, it is actually a “wobbler” offense. A wobbler is a charge that allows a prosecutor to choose whether to file the charge as a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

Prosecutors will almost always file charges for violating vehicle code §2800.2 as a felony.

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor violation of vehicle code section 2800.2 is: 

  1. Imprisonment in the county jail for up to 1-year;

  2. A fine of up to $10,000; OR

  3. Both that fine and imprisonment.

The maximum penalty for a felony violation of vehicle code section 2800.2 is: 

  1. Imprisonment in the state prison for 16-month, 2-years or 3-years;

  2. A fine of up to $10,000; OR

  3. Both that fine and imprisonment.

Inmate Handcuffed

A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of the defendant's probation. 

IMPORTANT: There is a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 6 months in county jail for any person found guilty of violating vehicle code section 2800.2.

3.  What are some common defenses to charges for evading police?

There are many defenses a good criminal defense lawyer can use to defend some accused of failing to register as a sex offender.  

No Criminal Intent –

As mentioned above, the defendant must willfully intend to evade officers. Thus, if a defendant was simply trying to get to a safer location before pulling over, then it cannot be said that the defendant was “intending to evade police” when s/he failed to stop their vehicle.

Vehicle Not Properly Parked

If the officer’s vehicle does not look different than other regular vehicles, then you cannot be convicted of evading police.


For example, if the vehicle was an undercover vehicle with no special features to distinguish it from other vehicles on the road, then the defendant cannot be convicted of evading.

4.  What to do if you've been charged with evading police?

A violation of Vehicle Code §2800.1 or Vehicle Code §2800.2 are very serious offenses. It is always advised that you hire an attorney BEFORE going to court.


By the time of your first court appearance, the district attorney assigned to prosecute you will already have prepared their case against you. It is important you hire an attorney before the hearing to get a head start on your defense.

Moreover, A good criminal defense attorney will be able to preserve any legal defenses that may be available at the start of the case.

Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer 

John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan is a trusted Orange County criminal defense lawyer that prides himself on his ability to communicate with clients as he helps them navigate our complex criminal justice system.


Attorney Mullen-Lujan was named one of the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orange and Newport Beach. Hire an attorney you can trust and who can provide the zealous advocacy you need.


Contact JPLaw, P.C. to schedule your FREE consultation with local Orange County criminal defense lawyer John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan. Together you will review your case and develop a legal defense strategy tailored just for you!


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JPLaw, P.C.

Orange County Law Office

Old Town Orange Office

410 N Clark St.
Orange, CA 92868

Phone: (949) 991-7057

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