How Much Force Can The Police Use In High-speed Car Chases?

September 12, 2023 by Madison Ferguson in California  Criminal Defense  
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High-speed Car Chases

In California, if a suspect tries to run away, the police can chase after them. But, there is a distinction between bringing a suspect back to jail and participating in a risky car chase. Although no law across the entire state prohibits car chases, many police precincts are implementing policies to limit officers from engaging in dangerous pursuits.

Deadly Force Limits

In 1985, the Supreme Court established that law enforcement officials are authorized to employ lethal force to capture a suspect attempting to flee only if it is essential to prevent escape. The officer possesses reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect poses a substantial risk of causing fatal harm or severe physical injury to the officer or others. Furthermore, in 2015, the Court stated that the use of force could encompass discharging five rounds into a moving vehicle (resulting in the death of the driver from four of those shots), even if the officer involved has not been trained in this particular tactic nor tried it previously.

Guidelines Police Officers Follow During Motor Vehicle Pursuits

According to the police guidelines, pursuits should only be conducted with red lights and sirens, and officers should drive with due regard and caution for the safety of all individuals on the road. Factors such as the seriousness of the crime, the threat to public safety, and the driving conditions should be considered when deciding whether to initiate a pursuit. Pursuits should be terminated if the risks outweigh the benefits, such as when the pursued vehicle’s location is unknown or if there are hazards to bystanders or officers.

The speed of the pursuit is also considered, stating that it should be evaluated continuously by the officer and supervisor. If the pursuit speeds become unreasonably unsafe or exceed the officer’s driving ability, the pursuit should be considered hazardous and potentially terminated. The number of pursuit units involved should be limited to two vehicles and a supervisor vehicle, but additional units may be requested if necessary. Officers not involved in the pursuit should stay alert to its progress and location.

Vehicles without emergency equipment are generally prohibited from initiating or joining a pursuit. However, officers in such vehicles may become involved in emergencies involving severe crimes or life-threatening situations. Aircraft assistance should be requested when available, and the air unit should assume control over the pursuit once visual contact is established. Pursuit intervention tactics, such as road spikes or ramming, should only be used with a supervisor’s approval and should be reasonable in light of the circumstances and potential risks.

Penalties For Evading Arrest

California legislators consider running away from the police as a careless escape, a charge that can be treated as either a minor crime or a serious felony. California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC deals with dangerous attempts to avoid the law while driving.

If you are found guilty of minor reckless avoidance, you could go to jail for up to a year and be fined $1,000.

If you are found guilty of deliberately evading the law dangerously, the punishment can involve:

  • Three years max jail
  • A massive fine of $10,000

The judge might command that the car you drove away in from the police gets kept at a place for thirty days, and then you will have to pay for the fees of keeping it there and for the service of getting it there in the first place.

To find you guilty of reckless evasion, the prosecution needs to show that:

  • You purposely avoided the police
  • Evidently, the vehicle and the officer belonged to the police force.

Whether you’re concerned about receiving a ticket or facing potential arrest for a severe offense, attempting to escape from the police and engaging in a high-speed pursuit will only exacerbate the situation. If you try to avoid consequences, you will face more charges. Moreover, if your actions cause damage to property or harm someone, you may be sued and have to pay a lot of money.

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