Evading a peace officer is a criminal offense under California Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC. However, when this act leads to the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the severity of the crime increases, and it can result in lengthy prison sentences.
Elements of Crime – California Vehicle Code 2800.3
The legal definition of evading an officer causing death or injury is based on the specific “elements of the crime.” These elements include the following components that must be present to establish the offense.
Evading an officer is legally defined as the act of intentionally fleeing or attempting to flee from a peace officer in a motor vehicle with the specific intention of evading that officer. To be considered misdemeanor evading an officer, the following conditions must apply:
- An officer in a motor vehicle must have been pursuing you.
- You must have willfully fled from or tried to flee from the officer in a motor vehicle, with the intention of evading them. “Willfully” means that you did so willingly or on purpose, without the requirement of intending to harm someone else or gain any advantage.
Additionally, for an incident to qualify as evading an officer, the officer’s vehicle must have been distinctly marked. This means that the following conditions must have been satisfied:
- At least one red lighted lamp on the front of the officer’s vehicle was visible.
- You either saw, or should have seen the lighted lamp.
- The officer’s vehicle was sounding a siren as necessary.
- The officer’s vehicle was uniquely marked (apart from the lamp and siren) with a seal or name of the law enforcement department on the car’s outside.
- The officer was wearing a recognizable uniform (something more than just a badge, but not necessarily a full uniform).
Distinctive markings on an officer’s car can include flashing blue or clear lights visible to the driver being pursued, or “wigwag” lights which are flashing headlights.
You can be held accountable for evading a peace officer and causing death or injury only if your act of evading directly results in death or serious bodily harm.
To establish guilt, both of the following conditions must be met:
- The death or injury was a direct, natural, and probable consequence of your actions.
- The death or injury would not have occurred if you had not evaded the officer.
A natural and probable consequence refers to an outcome that a reasonable person would anticipate as likely, taking into account all relevant circumstances.
If there are multiple causes for the death or injury, you will be deemed guilty under Vehicle Code 2800.3 if your act of evading the officer played a significant role in causing the death or injury.
This implies that your actions must be more than a minimal or insignificant factor in the death or injury, but it does not have to be the sole cause.
Under Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC, the term “serious bodily injury” refers to a significant impairment of physical condition.
Examples of injuries that may be considered as serious bodily injuries include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Bone fractures
- Wounds requiring extensive suturing
- Prolonged loss or impairment of a body part or function
- Serious disfigurement
It is important to note that injuries not mentioned in the list can still be classified as serious bodily injuries, and conversely, an injury listed may not be considered serious depending on the specific circumstances. The determination of whether an injury is deemed “serious” is a decision made by the jury.
It is worth mentioning that the term “serious bodily injury” is essentially synonymous with “great bodily injury.” The concept of great bodily injury serves as the basis for sentencing enhancements in various California offenses, such as Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury and Penal Code 242 PC battery.
Here are two examples of violation of California Vehicle Code Section 2600.3 VC:
John was driving recklessly and attempting to evade a police officer who signaled him to pull over. During the pursuit, he collided with another vehicle, causing serious bodily injury to the driver of the other car. John was eventually apprehended and charged with a violation of California Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC for evading an officer causing serious bodily injury.
After a trial, John was found guilty of the offense. Given the seriousness of the injuries caused, the court determined that it constituted a felony offense. John was subsequently sentenced to six years in state prison.
In addition to serving his prison sentence, John faced immigration consequences due to his conviction. As a result, he was at risk of deportation and would be ineligible for most forms of immigration relief.
It is important to note that each case is unique, and the outcome can vary based on the specific circumstances and the discretion of the court.
Penalties For California Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC Conviction:
When a person’s actions of evading a peace officer lead to serious injury to another individual, the offense becomes a “wobbler” offense. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face a jail sentence of up to one year, fines of up to $10,000, and may be required to provide victim restitution. On the other hand, if convicted as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison.
In cases where evading a peace officer causes the death of another person, the offense is always considered a felony. The punishment for this offense can include a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
How To Fight Evading an Officer Causing Injury or Death Charges
The penalties for evading an officer in California and causing injury or death are severe, even if there was no intention to harm anyone. However, with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, there are several legal defenses that can potentially lead to reduced charges or a dismissal of the case.
- One possible defense is arguing that you did not intend to evade an officer. In order to be found guilty of evading an officer, specific intent is required. If you can demonstrate that you were unaware of the officer pursuing you or had concerns for your safety in a particular neighborhood, it may be possible to challenge the prosecution’s claim that you specifically intended to evade an officer.
- Another defense strategy is asserting that there is insufficient evidence to prove that you evaded an officer. California law, including Vehicle Code 2800.3, outlines specific requirements that must be met for a conviction of reckless evading. If the prosecution fails to provide evidence that meets these requirements, such as proving that the officer had a recognizable uniform or a visible red light on their car, you may not be found guilty of evading an officer causing injury or death.
- Furthermore, it is essential to contest the claim that your actions were the proximate cause of the injury or death. Prosecutors sometimes attempt to tie an unrelated injury or accident to a police chase in order to escalate the charges. However, if they cannot demonstrate that the injury or death would not have occurred had you not evaded the officer, and that it was a probable consequence of your behavior, you should not be convicted under Vehicle Code 2800.3 VC. It is important to note that you could still face lesser penalties associated with misdemeanor evading an officer (VC 2800.1) or felony reckless evading (VC 2800.2).
- Lastly, if the injury in question is not classified as “serious,” you may be able to challenge the severity of the offense. Prosecutors often try to upgrade a case by asserting a minor injury as a “serious injury.” In response, your defense attorney may employ expert medical witnesses to assess the true extent of the alleged victim’s injuries. If the jury is not convinced that the injury was serious, you may only be convicted of misdemeanor or reckless evading an officer.
Consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to evaluate the specific circumstances of your case and determine the most effective defense strategy.
Immigration consequences vary depending on the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and their immigration status.
If the offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and the sentence includes less than one year of imprisonment, then there may be no immediate immigration consequences. However, if the offense results in serious bodily injury to another, there is a risk of deportation or ineligibility for immigration relief.
If the offense is classified as a felony, and the defendant receives a sentence exceeding one year, there is a high likelihood of deportation and ineligibility for most types of immigration relief, including cancellation of removal.
If you or someone you know is charged with crime under California Vehicle Code 2800.3, it is strongly advisable that you also consult with an immigration lawyer. If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.
- Evading a Peace Officer – California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC
- Reckless Evading of a Peace Officer – California Vehicle Code Section 2800.2 VC
- Resisting Arrest – California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC
- Vehicular Manslaughter in California – Penal Code 192(c) PC
- Murder – California Penal Code Section 187 PC
Get Legal Help From Criminal Defense Lawyer At Tabibnia Law Firm
If you or a loved one are facing charges for evading a peace officer and causing death or serious bodily injury, it is critical to immediately consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney. Mr. Cyrus Tabibnia is a highly experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer with more than 18 years of experience in defending individuals accused of serious offenses such as this.
To learn more about the offense and to schedule a free consultation, you can reach out to Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Cyrus Tabibnia at the Tabibnia Law Firm. Call 866-713-2159 for more information.