As a Los Angeles accident lawyer, I have discussed police pursuits and police chase liability in the past.
I diverge and venture into the realm of criminal law today to answer a question posed to me by several of my colleagues:
Are there criminal consequences for fleeing from police? What is the law for one who evades officers, leading them to undertake a dangerous police chase?
The answer can be found in the California Vehicle Code.
“Any person who, while operating a motor vehicle and with the intent to evade, wilfully flees or otherwise attempts to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one years if all of the following conditions exist:
1. The peace officer’s motor vehicle is exhibiting at least one lighted red lamp visible from the front, and the person either sees, or reasonably should have seen the lamp.
2. The peace officer’s motor vehicle is sounding a siren.
3. The peace officer’s motor vehicle is distinctively marked.
4. The peace officer’s motor vehicle is operated by a peace officer, and that officer is wearing a distinctive uniform.
It turns out that courts are very strict with these elements. In a recent case, the Court of Appeal in People v. Byrd (July 2016) reversed the conviction of Dywon Byrd, who was convicted of violating this Vehicle Code section after he attempted to flee from police officers.
Byrd’s conviction was overturned because during trial, no testimony was elicited as to whether the officers pursuing Byrd were wearing their police uniforms.
It seems like every week in Southern California we hear about another dangerous police chase. Rest assured there are serious criminal consequences for those who attempt to flee from police.
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