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Name: People v. Pakes
Case #: H032734
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/06/2009
Summary

Culpability for evading police with willful or wanton disregard for public safety (Veh. Code, sec. 2800.2) is not dependent on whether the pursuing police officer is behind defendant’s vehicle. Appellant was driving his truck when he rear-ended an SUV driven by an off-duty police officer. The officer directed appellant to pull over to exchange information but rather than complying, appellant took off. The officer followed appellant as appellant swerved in and out of traffic and cut off other vehicles. Sergeant St. Amour, who was driving a marked police car, heard the dispatch regarding the rear-end collision and from his location, was eventually able to see appellant traveling on an adjacent street. The sergeant activated the lights and siren of his vehicle and began pursuing appellant. When he reached the intersection that appellant was headed for, he positioned his car in an attempt to block appellant, but there was just enough room for appellant to get around the patrol vehicle and appellant was able to elude the officer. The sergeant continued to chase appellant and eventually appellant came to a stop and was arrested. At issue here was the court’s instruction that appellant could be convicted of Vehicle Code section 2800.2 on the basis of driving with willful or wanton disregard for public safety. Appellant argued that because the language of the statute requires the pursuing officer to “illuminate lights and appellant either saw or reasonably should have seen the lamp” [but failed to stop], the officer must be directly behind appellant during the pursuit. The appellate court rejected this interpretation, finding that the word “pursue” encompasses the concept of overtaking, but does not necessarily require the police vehicle to be directly behind defendant. Appellant’s conviction for section 2800.2 was affirmed.