California Vehicle Code Section 2800.4 VC: Evading A Peace Officer By Driving In The Opposite Direction Of Traffic

traffic crime1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

One of the most dangerous things that a driver can do is driving in the opposite direction of traffic into oncoming vehicles. Head-on collisions can cause massive damage, serious bodily injury and death to anyone unlucky enough to be involved in one. The California legislature has recognized the grave danger associated with this act and has enacted California Vehicle Code Section 2800.4 VC, which prohibits evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic

In order to prove a defendant is guilty of evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant was evading a peace officer in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC.

  2. AND the defendant willfully drove the vehicle on a highway in a direction opposite to that in which the traffic lawfully moves upon that highway.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Evading a Peace Officer – California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC
  2. Reckless Evading of a Peace Officer - California Vehicle Code Section 2800.2 VC
  3. Evading a Peace Officer and Causing Death or Serious Bodily Injury – California Vehicle Code Section 2800.3 VC
  4. Resisting Arrest – California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC
  5. Reckless Driving – California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC
3. Examples

A man is driving one day when he notices flashing lights in his rearview mirror. The man has a warrant and knows that he will go to jail if he is caught by the police. The man does not pull his car over and instead engages the officer on a high speed chase. The man is able to evade the following officer for a while, but soon notices that he is coming up on a police barricade. The man does not stop at the barricade and drives into the opposite lane of traffic, against cars driving in the opposite direction. This man could be charged with evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 2800.4 VC.

In another example, a man is driving one day when he loses control of his brakes while going down a hill. An officer sees him drive erratically and attempts to initiate a traffic stop using his lights and sirens. The man is unable to stop his vehicle. The man notices that traffic in his lane is stopped ahead and he will collide with the vehicles in front of him unless he does something. In order to avoid the stopped vehicles, he swerves into the opposite lane of traffic, which is empty and is eventually able to stop his vehicle in a drainage ditch. This man would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.4 VC because he did not intentionally evade police and only drove into the opposite lane of traffic because there was no safe alternative.

4. Defenses to Evading a Peace Officer by Driving in the Opposite Direction of Traffic

If the defendant did not satisfies the elements of evading a peace officer under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC, there could not be any subsequent liability under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.4 VC.

In addition, there may be instances where a driver is fleeing police, but only goes into oncoming traffic as the result of a maneuver or action taken by a pursuing officer. In these cases, the defendant would not be guilty of evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic because the statute requires that the driver willfully drove into the opposite lane. The driver could still be charged with evading a peace officer under California Vehicle Code Section 2800.1 VC.

5. Penalties

Evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. If convicted as a misdemeanor, a judge can sentence the defendant to serve up to a year in jail.

6. Criminal Defense for Evading a Peace Officer by Driving in the Opposite Direction of Traffic Cases

If you have been charged with evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic, it is crucial that you discuss your case with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly skilled at defending those charged with serious crimes of this nature.

For more information about evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite direction of traffic and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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