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California Legalizes Most Jaywalking Amid Allegations Cops Were Targeting Minorities

Sacramento, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on legislation legalizing jaywalking late last week amid allegations that police were citing more black people with the offense than white people.

The Freedom to Walk Act, authored by California State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), limits the circumstances under which law enforcement officers can legally stop or cite pedestrians who walk out into the street, KVVU reported.

“The sentiment is very simple that we all have the right to cross the street without being fearful of being cited unnecessarily,” Ting declared.

The assemblyman said the law is necessary because police stopped black people four-and-one-half times more often than white people for jaywalking between 2018 and 2020, KVVU reported.

“People who are getting cited are disproportionately African American,” Ting told KOVR in 2021.

“We’ve seen too often that people get cited for jaywalking in certain low-income neighborhoods or certain types or people get cited much more often than others,” he said during an interview with KSBY on Tuesday.

Jaywalking fines were also unreasonably stifling, according to the lawmaker.

“For many people living paycheck to paycheck, getting a ticket where you have to owe a few hundred dollars for simply crossing the street to go to work, to go to school or just pick up some groceries doesn’t make much sense,” Ting told KSBY.

He said jaywalking laws are not an effective way to protect citizens.

“It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street,” Ting said in a statement to USA Today. “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.”

“Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons,” he added.

Newsom signed off on the bill on Sept. 30, KVVU reported.

It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, according to USA Today.

Under the new law, law enforcement officers in California will only be permitted to stop pedestrians who cross the street outside of a crosswalk in cases where a “reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision,” according to KSBY.

The bill was strongly opposed by the California Sheriff’s Association, which pointed to California’s high rate of pedestrian deaths as a reason to continue requiring citizens to use crosswalks.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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