Last month, several men suspected of armed robbery led police on a high-speed chase through the city of Los Angeles. According to reports, the getaway car exceeded 100 MPH as it raced down several Los Angeles Highways and surface streets in North Hollywood and Universal City. The high-speed chase eventually came to an end when the men ditched the car and attempted to escape officers on foot.
K9 officers were called to the scene and able to track down the suspects. Five men were arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and for their roles in leading a police chase. Since the men tried to escape with a vehicle and on foot, it’s possible that they could face charges for both resisting arrest and evading a police officer.
Pursuits: Running vs. Driving From Police
In California, you have an obligation to follow a police officer’s lawful order. This includes times when an officer tells you to stop, pull over, or remain where you are. It’s a crime to ignore the order or try to evade arrest. However, how you try to evade arrest will ultimately determine which criminal charges you’ll face. If you try to run from police you can be charged with resisting arrest. If you try to drive away from police you can be charged with evading a police officer.
California Penal Code 148 PC explains that it is a crime to “willfully resist, delay, or obstruct” a peace officer or EMT “in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office.” In other words, it’s illegal to intentionally try to prevent a police officer from doing his or her job.
Example: Let’s say that a police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that you’ve just participated in an armed robbery. They approach you and order you to remain where you are. You’re afraid that you’ll be arrested and begin to run away. Running away has obstructed the officer from performing his or her job duties. As a result, you could be charged with resisting arrest under 148 PC.
Penalties for Resisting Arrest
Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The maximum penalty is 12 months in a Los Angeles County Jail and a fine of $1,000.
Evading a Police Officer
The consequences of running from police can be much more severe if you’re in a vehicle. Evading a police officer, as defined in California Vehicle Code 2800.1 CVC, occurs when you “operate a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, willfully flee or otherwise attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle.”
In other words, it’s a crime to use a car to escape arrest or prevent a police officer from doing his or her job.
When is a police officer in “pursuit” for the purposes of 2800.1 CVC? The officer’s vehicle must:
- Be distinctively marked
- Be operated by a peace officer
- Have at least one red light “on” and visible from the front of the vehicle, and
- Sound a siren, if reasonably necessary.
Other signs of a police suit include issuing a verbal command, using hand signals, or sounding a horn with a sound of at least 115 decibels.
However, you can only be guilty of evading a police officer if you knew, or should have known, that you were fleeing or eluding the officer.
Example: Let’s say you are driving and a marked police car pulls up behind you. An officer issues a verbal command to pull over and turns on the vehicle’s sirens. You begin to speed up and attempt to make it through an intersection before the light changes, hoping that the officer gets caught behind. You have willfully attempted to elude a police officer. Since you were driving a vehicle, you can be charged with evading a police officer under 2800.1 CVC.
Penalties for Evading a Police Officer
Evading a police officer is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The maximum penalty is 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail and $1,000 in fines.
Evading an officer can be charged as a felony if you:
- Drive recklessly with a wanton disregard for the safety of others, or
- Cause injury or death.
Felony evading arrest is punishable by up to seven years in a California state prison and $10,000 in fines.
Have you been arrested for trying to escape or elude police? You need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for immediate assistance. We’ll help you fight any criminal charges you face.