In recent years, police misconduct has been in center spotlight in the news. While respect for law enforcement officers may be wavering at the moment, both in California as well as nationally, citizens are still held to the duty to respect and obey law enforcement officers and peace officers. Nevertheless, when being pulled over, some people make the decision to evade the officer, or refuse to pull over and make an attempt to get away. Not surprisingly, you can face criminal prosecution if you evade an officer. However, police officers attempting to pull you over must fulfill their duties to notify you of their intent. When an officer intends to pull you over, they are required to provide sufficient signaling to notify you, as the driver, that you are being pulled over. This is essentially a request by the officer for you to pull over so they can speak to you. Not obeying an officer's order or request is always inadvisable. The officer's car must have been marked and they must have had a signal and siren on, according to standard procedure. Police officer's are required to have one red signal, visible from the front of the vehicle, to notify people driving that they are being pursued. The siren must be on as well, if it was necessary. These are important facts because without these two elements, it is nearly impossible for an officer to clearly communicate their intent to pull you over. In absence of clear communication from the officer regarding their intent, you cannot be charged with evading an officer. The police or peace officer operating the car must also have been in a marked uniform. Essentially, it must have been made clear, or should have been reasonably clear, that the person pulling you over was a police or peace officer, were driving a police car and were attempting to pull you over.
For the prosecution to convict you of evading an officer under California Penal Code 2800.1, it must be proven that you intentionally and willfully evaded, eluding or fled from an officer who was engaged in his or her duties. The officer must have been pursuing you in a vehicle with the intent to pull you over. If you genuinely did not know that they were attempting to pull you over, you are not guilty of evading an officer. Similarly, if their car was not conspicuously marked and/or it was not clear they were a police officer, i.e. they were not wearing a marked uniform, you are not guilty of evading an officer under California Penal Code 2800.1. Evading an officer is charged as a misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Your vehicle may also be impounded for up to 30 days and your license could be suspended. If you were evading the officer recklessly or if your evasion resulted in injury or death to an individual, you could face a felony charge with harsher consequences. The consequences you would have faced if pulled over may or may not be greater than they are for evading an officer. However, if you are caught evading an officer, the reason for your evasion may come to light, which could result in another criminal charge on your record. Police chases often end in the suspect being taken over and detained. Rarely do those evading an officer get away with it. It may be easy to misconstrue what an officer's intent was and in these cases, you may have been unintentionally evading the officer, however this is not a criminal offense.
Always keep in mind that in many cases, you must be committing a crime knowingly and with intent in order to be guilty of it. If you were not aware you were being pulled over, you are not at fault. Police officers are required to take sufficient measures to clearly communicate their intent. When they don't, people may not obey their requests or orders, through no fault of their own. Don't accept an evading an officer charge without a fight. Consult with an experienced driving crime defense attorney who can advise you on your rights and your options to defense.
If you are facing evading an officer charges in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. With ten years experience in criminal defense, attorney Christopher Martens can fight aggressively for you to ensure you are charged fairly and justly based on correct facts. Attorney Martens will not be afraid to take your case all the way to trial if necessary. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your options for defending your case.