Jaywalking decriminalized under newly signed California law

Under a new law, Californians will be able to cross the street outside of a formal intersection without being ticketed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed the Freedom to Walk Act, which stipulates that pedestrians can be ticketed for jaywalking — or crossing outside of an intersection — only if there is “immediate danger of a collision,” says the release.

The law, written by Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco, will take effect on Jan. 1.

It amends the state vehicle code to “prohibit a peace officer … from stopping a pedestrian for specified traffic infractions unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle.”

A similar bill that Ting introduced in the previous legislative session was vetoed by Newsom, who said he was concerned it would “unintentionally reduce pedestrian safety.” The governor said at that time, though, that “unequal enforcement of jaywalking laws and the use of minor offenses like it as a pretext to stop people of color … is unacceptable and must be addressed.”

Four years ago, Chinedu Okobi died after he was repeatedly tased by San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies who were attempting to arrest him for jaywalking in Millbrae. And in 2020, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Kurt Reinhold after stopping him for allegedly jaywalking. Both Okobi and Reinhold were Black. No charges were brought against the deputies.

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Rapper Tupac Shakur settled a lawsuit against Oakland police after he said he was thrown to the ground during a 1991 jaywalking arrest at 17th and Broadway in Oakland.

In 1985, it was announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Edwin Meese — then the U.S. attorney general — because of an unpaid $10 ticket for jaywalking near Los Angeles International Airport five years earlier. Meese paid the fine of $130.50 and was not arrested.