Rules Of The Road — About Charges Of Evading The Police And Reckless Driving
What is evading a police officer and when is this a felony charge?
What constitutes felony evading a police officer is a complicated case. Depending on the charges and way a judge decides to sentence, certain evasion cases can be felonies or misdemeanors. Police evasion is what is considered a wobble issue, meaning that the same crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. What differentiates felony evasion from simple evasion depends on the charges, and even then, the cases can wobble.
Evading a police officer with no additional charges is always a misdemeanor, punishable by time in county jail.
The next level of severity is evading police with a charge of reckless driving; that is a disregard for persons or property. Reckless evasion is a wobble charge resulting in either time in state prison or a year or less in county jail, a fine, or both.
On about the same level as reckless driving is the wrong way driver charge. As the name implies, if one is convicted of driving on the wrong side of the street or otherwise into opposing traffic, they face six to 10 months in county jail. If this charge is asserted, reckless driving certainly will be as well.
Evading a police officer causing injury, the next most severe charge, is also a wobble issue. If driving eluding police has caused an injury, the person eluding the police may spend one, three or five years in state prison or not more than one year in county jail. A fine may also be imposed.
If evading a police officer causes death, the crime is always a felony, punishable by four, six or 10 years in state prison.
At the stages in this progression, the offenses are punishable by time in prison, a fine or both. There is, however, no fine for misdemeanor evasion. The fine for reckless driving must be more than $1,000, but must not exceed $10,000. For injury the fine is $2,000 to $20,000. And for death the fine is from $1,000 to $10,000. All monetary and sentencing amounts vary with the situation and are at the discretion of the judge.
VC 2800.1, VC 2800.2, VC 2800.3, VC 2800.4
What is reckless driving?
Reckless driving is a charge of driving with a willful or wanton disregard for persons or property. This charge can be asserted against driving not only on the road but also parking lots or structures. The punishment is between five and 90 days in county jail, a fine of $145 to $1,000, or both.
Should reckless driving result in injuring anyone but the driver, even indirectly, the penalty is between 30 days and six months in county jail, a fine of between $220 and $1,000, or both.
Should reckless driving cause great bodily injury, the sentence may be as above for simple injury or 16 months, two years or three years in jail.
Reckless driving is also a charge added to eluding a police officer that increases the severity thereof. This charge is applied should a person be eluding an officer while driving in a way that disregards the safety of persons or property.
Reckless driving can also result in license suspension.
The sentencing of wet reckless driving causing great bodily injury, as defined in 122022.7, is covered in VC 23103, but also refers to possible sentencing pursuant to 1170 (h) of the penal code. Reckless driving may result in a court suspension for a period of not to exceed 30 days upon a first conviction, for a period of not to exceed 60 days upon a second conviction, and for a period of not to exceed six months upon a third or any subsequent conviction.
VC 23103.5, VC 13201
What is wet reckless driving?
Wet reckless driving is the offense that results from a plea bargain from a downgraded DUI. If a defendant is charged with DUI, they might be offered this deal. Under this plea bargain, if a defendant agrees to plead “no contest” or guilty to a wet reckless charge, the DUI charges will be dropped. The charge is recorded as reckless driving with a note made as to whether the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The sentencing for a wet reckless charge is the same as its normal reckless driving counterparts.
Despite DUI charges being dropped, this bargain does carry some penalties aside from actual sentencing. In terms of certain codes, a wet reckless charge can count as a prior offense when the code stipulates different punishments for DUI charges when priors are present.
A wet reckless charge counts as a prior offense for the purposes of Section 23540, 23546, 23550, 23560, 23566 or 23622, as specified in those sections. It applies to these sections exactly as a prior would in term of sentencing. If the court decides to place the defendant on probation for this charge, there is mandated drug and alcohol counseling and education. When two wet reckless charges occur within 10 years, there is a court mandated nine-month period of counseling and education.
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