Evading An Officer: Causing Death Or Serious Bodily Injury

If you caused serious bodily injury or death to another person while evading (or attempting to evade) a police officer, you violated Vehicle Code §2800.3.

Actions Caused Serious Bodily Injury

If your actions cause serious bodily injury to another person and you are convicted of the offense, you will be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years, by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Actions Caused Death

If your actions cause death to another person and you are convicted of the offense, you will be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 4, 6, or 10 years.

What Is Evading An Officer Causing Injury Or Death?

The Vehicle Code §2800.3 defines the offense as “…willful flight or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 [that] proximately causes serious bodily injury to any person…”1

Example

A driver who was speeding away from a pursuing police car made a wrong turn into a one-way street and collided with the oncoming traffic.  The collision caused serious bodily injuries to several passengers.  The driver will be charged with Vehicle Code section 2008.3, because as a result of trying to evade an officer, he caused serious bodily injuries to several other people.  If the collision causes death to another person, the driver could also be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter under Penal Code §192(c)(1).

However, a defendant who violates Vehicle Code section 2800.1 and as a result, causes death to another, cannot be charged with “felony murder,” because Vehicle Code section 2800.3 is not considered to be an “inherently dangerous” felony and as such does not support a felony-murder conviction.2

How Does The Prosecutor Prove Guilt

To prove that you are guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements3

  • A peace officer in a motor vehicle was pursuing the defendant, who was also driving a vehicle4;
  • The defendant intended to evade the peace officer;
  • While driving, the defendant “willfully” fled from, or tried to elude, the pursuing peace officer5;
  • The defendant’s attempt to flee from, or elude, the pursuing peace officer caused6 the death of or serious bodily injury to someone7

and all of the following were true:

  • There was at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front of the peace officer’s vehicle;
  • The defendant either saw or reasonably should have seen the lamp;
  • The peace officer’s vehicle was sounding a siren as reasonably necessary;
  • The peace officer’s vehicle was distinctively marked8; AND
  • The peace officer was wearing a distinctive uniform9
Example (Defendant’s actions were NOT the direct cause of a serious injury or death to another person)

Defendant carjacked a car and was trying to get rid of the pursuing police officers by driving at over 90 miles per hour on the freeway.  Alarmed by the defendant’s speed, another driver tried to hastily switch lanes to get out of the way.  As a result of failing to clear for traffic to his right, the hasty driver collided with another car to his right.  The collision caused the driver on the right to suffer a serious bodily injury.  In this case, the defendant’s actions were not the direct cause of the injury; rather the other driver who negligently tried to get out of the way caused the other person to suffer the injury.

Keep in mind, however, that the defendant can still be charged with other offenses, such as Evading a Peace or Police Officer Vehicle Code 2008.1, and possibly “Carjacking” pursuant to Penal Code §215  if the defendant carjacked the vehicle that he was driving.  The defendant can also be charged with “Unlawful Driving or Taking of a Vehicle” under Vehicle Code § 10851(a) if the defendant unlawfully took the vehicle, as discussed in the “Related Offenses” section below.

Legal Defenses

Lack Of Intent To Evade
Example

  • You were faced with an emergency
  • You were speeding on the freeway and saw a police car behind you in the distance, but did not know that it was pursuing you
  • You were so drunk while driving that you did not realize that you were being pursued, or that you are being pulled over for that matter

However, keep in mind that even if you are not found guilty of this offense due to lack of intent to evade, if you were driving while you were intoxicated, you may still be charged with “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) under Vehicle Code 23152 VC.

Penalties

This offense can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case.  If you caused death to another person while evading a police officer, the offense will always be charged as a felony.  However, if caused serious bodily injury, it may be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor.

PenaltiesSerious Bodily InjuryDeath
Fine$2,000-$10,000 in fines $2,000 – $10,000
ProbationMisdemeanor = Summary Probation: Felony = Formal Probation Formal Probation
Jail or PrisonMisdemeanor = Up to 1 year in Jail: Felony = 3,5 or 7 years in state prison4, 6, or 10 years in prison
Conviction Affects The Following Rights

Your Right to Operate Commercial Vehicles:

First Violation

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code §15300, a driver of a commercial vehicle, such as taxi, bus, or big rig, who commits a violation involving a commercial motor vehicle, including a felony, will not be allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle for a period of 1 year if the driver is convicted of a first violation.

Second Violation

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code §15302, a driver of a commercial vehicle who is convicted of more than one violation involving a commercial motor vehicle, including a felony, will not be allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her life.

Violation Involving Controlled Substances

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code §15304, “[a] driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle for the rest of his or her life if he/she uses a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance, or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance…” even if it is a first time offense.

Your Right to Own/Possess/Acquire/Receive Firearms

A conviction of Evading an Officer Causing Injury or Death charged as a felony, will result in you being prohibited to “…own, possess, acquire, or receive…” firearms for life pursuant to Penal Code §29800 – that sets out California’s law concerning “felons with a firearm

Aggravating Factors

Resisting Arrest

Pursuant to the Penal Code section 148, a defendant who resists, obstructs, or delays a law enforcement officer in the performance of his/her duty, may be charged with the offense of Resisting Arrest under Penal Code §148

Example

Fleeing from a police officer while the officer is trying to arrest you.

If convicted of this offense, a defendant can face being charged a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), and/or imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Pursuant to Penal Code 192(c), if you were driving while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could also be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter.  Similarly, Penal Code section 191.5 punishes a defendant who acts negligently, and does not require that the defendant be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Example

Defendant was being pursued by the police while driving under the influence of drugs.  As a result of being really high, defendant collided with another vehicle, causing the other driver to suffer instant death.

Unlawful Driving Or Taking Of A Vehicle

Pursuant to Vehicle Code § 10851(a), any person who drives or takes a vehicle not his or her own, without the consent of the owner thereof, and with intent either to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner thereof of his or her title to or possession of the vehicle, whether with or without intent to steal the vehicle, or any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing.

Example

Fleeing from the police in a stolen car.

If convicted of this offense, a defendant, will be guilty of a public offense and, upon conviction will be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code, or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.

Next Steps If You Need Help

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about how attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you would like to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Footnotes

  1. Vehicle. Code, § 2800.3. (a) Whenever willful flight or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 proximately causes serious bodily injury to any person, the person driving the pursued vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years, by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment. (b) Whenever willful flight or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer in violation of Section 2800.1 proximately causes death to a person, the person driving the pursued vehicle, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 4, 6, or 10 years. (c) Nothing in this section shall preclude the imposition of a greater sentence pursuant to Section 190 of the Penal Code or any other provisions of law applicable to punishment for an unlawful death.(d) For the purposes of this section, “serious bodily injury” has the same meaning as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (f) of Section 243 of the Penal Code. []
  2. People v. Jones (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 663, 668–669 [98 Cal.Rptr.2d 724]; People v. Sanchez (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 970, 974 [103 Cal.Rptr.2d 809]. []
  3. Elements. Veh. Code, §§ 2800.1(a), 2800.3(a), (b). []
  4. A “peace officer” is anyone who is engaged in the duty of law enforcement, including but not limited to the following persons: CHP officer (California Highway Patrol), police officer, sheriff, marshal or deputy marshal of a superior court or county, port warden or port police officer, any inspector or investigator employed in such capacity in the office of a district attorney.  Pen. Code, § 830 et seq. []
  5. 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. []
  6. An act causes death or serious bodily injury if the death or injury is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the death or injury would not have happened without the act.  A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes.  In deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, a court will consider all the circumstances established by the evidence.  There may be more than one cause of death or serious bodily injury.  An act causes death or injury only if it is a substantial factor in causing the death or injury.  A substantial factor is more than a trivial or remote factor.  However, it need not be the only factor that causes the death or injury. []
  7. A serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition.  Such an injury may include loss of consciousness, concussion, bone fracture, protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ, a wound requiring extensive suturing and serious disfigurement.  Serious Bodily Injury Defined. Pen. Code, § 243(f)(4); People v. Taylor (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 11, 25, fn. 4 [12 Cal.Rptr.3d 693]. []
  8. 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.  Distinctively Marked Vehicle. People v. Hudson (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1002, 1010–1011 [44 Cal.Rptr.3d 632, 136 P.3d 168]. []
  9. 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.  Distinctive Uniform. People v. Estrella (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 716, 724 [37 Cal.Rptr.2d 383]; People v. Mathews (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 485, 491 [75 Cal.Rptr.2d 289]. []

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