If you choose between a felony and a misdemeanor when it comes to evading arrest in California, you clearly would rather deal with a misdemeanor case. A felony evading arrest will usually carry prison time, which is real prison time.  It's one of those offenses where they send you to prison if you are convicted of it.

So, all of these people you see on the news with helicopters involved, prosecutors and judges hate that, and they do everything to put that person in prison for as long as possible.

When you discuss the dividing line between felony and misdemeanor evading, you're talking about a host of factors.  First off, if you run more than one light, technically, they can probably charge you with a felony.

What Determines Misdemeanor or Felony Evading Arrest Cases in California?

But, if it's a short chase, there's no one in danger, no other pedestrians, no other cars around, you get out of the car very quickly and run away, for example, they're probably not going to charge that as a felony, and if they do, a lot of times I can get that reduced down to a misdemeanor.

Another defense to felony evading arrest is if you can claim that you didn't see the police were chasing you, you didn't see the lights or hear the sirens. Sometimes they don't put the lights and siren on right away.  It's not fair if a person doesn't see them following them.

Usually, where I see these cases get set up in the San Fernando Valley is when someone is going real fast, like 90 or 100 miles an hour on the freeway, the police start chasing them, and they don't realize for quite some time that the police are actually behind them because they're going so fast.

So, in that scenario, you may well argue that it is not an evading case if once they determine, the police are behind them, they stop the car, pull over and cooperate. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review the laws below to give readers a better understanding of evading arrest.

Evading Police in a Vehicle – Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC

California Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC makes it a crime to evade a police officer in a vehicle, described as willfully fleeing police when they are pursuing you in a car or on a bicycle. This statute is normally charged as a misdemeanor and carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. To be convicted of violating VC 2800.1, the prosecution must prove you:

  • Willfully fled, or attempted to elude a police officer in a motor vehicle, and
  • There was a visible lighted red lamp on the police vehicle,
  • You saw, or should have reasonably seen the lighted red lamp,
  • The police vehicle was visibly marked, and
  • The police officer was wearing a distinct uniform.

A common defense for an evading police charge is to make a reasonable argument there was no specific intent to evade them. Readers should note the prosecutor has the burden to prove all the elements of the crime.

Felony Reckless Evading – Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC

California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC defines felony reckless evading as fleeing police officers in a vehicle while driving with a willful disregard for the safety of others or property. Put simply, “felony reckless evading” means you ran from law enforcement in your car and drove in a severely reckless manner while attempting to escape. To drive with a wanton disregard for safety means you:

  • Knew your behavior posed a risk of harm, and;
  • Intentionally and deliberately ignored the risk, and;
  • Drove your vehicle in a manner showing;
  • That you had no regard for the safety of others.

This crucial factor distinguishes a VC 2800.1 misdemeanor evading police with the more severe VC 2800.2 felony reckless evading case. Despite the name “felony reckless evading,” this type of charge is a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime. If convicted of reckless evading as a felony offense, the penalties include:

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison;
  • A maximum up to $10,000;
  • Formal felony probation.

Further, a VC 2800.2 conviction typically results in a driver's license suspension and revocation, and the vehicle can be impounded for up to 30 days. The related crimes include evading causing injury or death under California Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC, reckless driving under Vehicle Code 23103 VC, and resisting arrest under Penal Code 148(a) PC.

Level of Danger in Evading Police Cases

But dangerousness is what the prosecutors and judges are looking at deciding if it will be a felony or a misdemeanor evading case. Suppose someone is very dangerous traveling fast, running red lights. In that case, there are many people out, pedestrians and cars, they're always going to charge that case as a felony, and they're always going to be looking at putting that person in prison for as long as possible.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Los Angeles

So, suppose you or a loved one is charged with a felony or misdemeanor evading — even a misdemeanor evading you can get custody time. In that case, you could be thrown in county jail and might also lose your driver's license. This means you're going to want an attorney like me who's been doing this for almost 30 years as a defense attorney, fighting for people like you.

Sometimes there's more than meets the eye. Sometimes the police and prosecutors only have half of the story, so it's up to me, as your defense attorney, to tell the other half of the story.

So, you must take the first step now. Pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. Let's sit down in the privacy of my office and talk about what happened and why it happened.  Let's talk about whether anyone was injured or whether not there were any safety concerns.

We have to get into all of the details of what happened so we can adequately defend you so you can end up with the best possible result. Pick up the phone now.  I stand at the ready to help mitigate the case protect your rights, your future, and your freedom. Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation.