California Decriminalizes Jaywalking

Law was created in response to unfair policing practices
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2022 3:01 PM CDT
'Freedom to Walk Act' Means Californians Free to Jaywalk
   (Getty - Dmytro Varavin)

As of Jan. 1, jaywalking will no longer be a crime in California—for the most part—thanks to the Freedom to Walk Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week. CNN cites a press release that reads, "the law stipulates that pedestrians can only be ticketed for jaywalking—or crossing outside of an intersection—if there is 'immediate danger of a collision.'" So, as long as they look both ways and wait for immediate dangers to pass, Californians will be free to cross the street wherever they please. The law, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting, was developed mainly in response to unfair policing practices.

"It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street," Ting wrote in the release. "When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians." According to the release, statistics show jaywalking is "arbitrarily enforced" and is far more likely to impact people of color. One prominent example involved Kurt Reinhold, a homeless Black man in Orange County who was stopped for jaywalking and died in police custody. Per CBS News, Ting also cited Chinedu Okobi, an unarmed man in San Mateo who died in 2018 after an altercation with police sparked by jaywalking.

"For too long, our jaywalking laws were used as a pretext to stop and harass people, especially low-income people and people of color," one civil rights lawyer told CBS, which also notes that the legislature passed a similar bill last year, but Newsom vetoed it. The Los Angeles Times reports jaywalking remains on the books across the country but has been enforced far more frequently in California compared to other places. As to how the new law will impact safety, the Highway Patrol commissioner, in partnership with experts at the University of California, is required to submit a report on crash data to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2028. (More jaywalking stories.)

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