Jaywalking Will Be Legal Under New California Law
Starting January 1, 2023, California residents will be able to cross a street outside of a crosswalk without getting a citation, as long as it is done safely, thanks to a new bill called The Freedom To Walk Act.
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill, and Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law on Friday, September 30, 2022.
Assembly Bill 2147 — The Freedom To Walk Act
Under Assembly Bill 2147, police can only ticket someone for jaywalking if there is an immediate danger of an accident.
Assemblymember Ting said crossing the street safely should not be a criminal offense. He said we need to reconsider how we use our police resources when costly citations and unnecessary confrontations with law enforcement only impact specific communities.
Proponents of the bill said high-poverty communities don’t typically have the funding and infrastructure to provide safe crosswalks. They said it is a win in decriminalizing jaywalking because citations are disproportionately given to minorities or low-income individuals who can’t afford to pay them.
New Law Can Prevent Life-Threatening Situations
Protests erupted in September 2020 when a police officer shot and killed a homeless person after stopping him for jaywalking in San Clemente. Prosecutors later declined to bring charges against the deputy.
In April 2017, A Del Paso Heights man was beaten by a Sacramento police officer after he was accused of jaywalking. The man has settled a $550,000 civil rights lawsuit with the city.
In a 1991 landmark jaywalking case, Oakland police stopped the late rapper Tupac Shakur for jaywalking. It was reported that Shakur was tackled, cuffed, and choked before losing consciousness. Shakur sued the Oakland police department for $10 million but later settled for a $42,000 lawsuit.
An attorney for a civil rights group in the Bay Area said under this law, police will no longer be able to burden pedestrians with citations and heaps of debt. He said officers use jaywalking violations as a pretext to harass people, especially minorities and low-income people. The bill will stop that and make California safer for everyone.
Current California Law on Jaywalking
Under current California law, jaywalking is illegal, and pedestrians are to use the crosswalks when crossing intersections controlled by traffic lights.
Some examples of jaywalking include:
- Crossing a street outside of a marked crosswalk.
- Crossing a road 15 feet away from a marked crosswalk.
- Crossing a roadway at a crosswalk when a light flashes, “do not walk.”
Penalties for Jaywalking in California
But until the law goes into effect in January 2023, a pedestrian found guilty of jaywalking will be charged with an infraction and could be fined up to $200 plus court fees.
California is not the first state to decriminalize jaywalking. Virginia did it in March 2021, and data showed no detectable effect on pedestrian traffic deaths during that year. Kansas City, Missouri, also legalized jaywalking in 2021, but there is not enough data to determine whether it has affected pedestrian traffic safety yet.
Watch YouTube Video: Jaywalking in California to Be Decriminalized by Lawmakers in 2023. The news clip from ABC10 below reports on the new law and what it means for jaywalkers.
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