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California Laws Hitting The Street in 2024 – Essential Updates You Need to Know

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Each new year sees California lawmakers busy updating legislation, and 2024 is no different. A multitude of fresh legislation pieces, primarily concerning traffic safety, are prepared to roll out, directly affecting the 27 million or so drivers navigating the Golden State’s roads. As traffic lawyers, we feel obligated to help keep our clients and followers stay informed.

Most interesting to us at The Ticket Clinic? Governor Gavin Newsom has put his stamp on this year’s laws, some of which modify how police officers can engage with drivers during traffic stops. Also, there could be a new speed enforcement camera program hitting the California streets. Other new rules earmark the initiation of safety programs, addressing the critical issue of increasing pedestrian fatalities.

Here are several of the newly imposed laws taking effect in 2024 that every motorist should stay informed about:

Assembly Bill 436 – Cruising

Revolutionizing the automotive scene, AB 436 has successfully lifted the longstanding ban on lowrider cruising in California. This liberating alteration in the state’s vehicle code seizes power from local administrative bodies to place certain car models under their punitive radar.

Unraveling ‘cruising’ to you – it’s the leisurely drive of a ‘low and slow’ car, a distinct culture that the modified vehicles (closer to the ground than the bottom of their rims) remarkably represent.

The much-awaited victory has seen the relentless spirit of the lowrider aficionados play out beautifully. This unique driving culture, deeply rooted in Southern California’s Chicano communities since the World War II epoch, has finally broken free.

Coming into force from Jan. 1, 2024, cities such as Los Angeles, Fresno, and Santa Ana, that still hold cruising restrictions in their bylaws, are in line for some major enactment revamping.

Assembly Bill 2773 – Stops: Notification by Peace Officers

In light of the new AB 2773 legislation, police officers will no longer commence a traffic stop with the question: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Indeed, the officer is now required to articulate the reason for the stop before posing any further queries to the driver. Interestingly, this new rule also applies to pedestrian encounters.

As mentioned in the law’s text, there’s a caveat. The only occasion an officer can bypass stating the purpose of the stop is if they believe an immediate threat to life or property is present.

The primary impetus behind these updated guidelines is twofold: to minimize pretextual stops and dial down tension during police-civilian interactions. Keep in mind, these new requirements take effect from the get-go of 2024, specifically Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill 645 – Vehicles: Speed Safety System Pilot Program

Starting in 2024, provisions of the new regulation AB 645 permit a select number of California locales — Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, Glendale, Long Beach and the San Francisco county — to implement speed monitoring cameras for a span of five years. This plan is a part of a pilot scheme aimed at enhancing monitoring and law enforcement on speeding.

This project will primarily aim at areas of high risk, including school zones, routes notorious for accidents, and known hotspots for street racing across a range of different geographic locations as outlined in the legislation.

If a driver is caught speeding in these particular areas, the penalty they receive will be contingent on the excess speed over the stipulated limit.

Assembly Bill 256 – Vehicles: Registration

According to these new rules, a lapse in the display of the vehicle’s registration sticker can no longer serve as the sole rationale for an officer stopping a driver. This is especially true within the first two months following the vehicle’s registration expiration.

According to the bill’s proponents, the financial burden associated with expired tag violations enforcement — which can take the form of hefty fines, license suspensions, or even impounding — can be postponed. The effects of such costs can be financially devastating for some families, and this legislation seeks to offer some relief.

Additional supporters of the bill, including several California lawmakers, argue it may also limit officers from making what is known as “pretextual stops”. These are instances when an officer stops a vehicle under the guise of a minor violation, while aiming to investigate a completely unrelated matter.

Some advocates say that such uses of the vehicle code violations for procedural matters, often disproportionately affecting black and Hispanic drivers, can lead to inflated costs for the motorist or escalate to unnecessary force. These changes are designed to counteract these issues.

Commencing on July 1, 2024, this new bill will be in effect and will remain valid until January 1, 2030, unless further amendments alter the end date. Be aware, however, late fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles will still apply alongside enforcement actions after the second month of tag expiration.

Assembly Bill 925 – Vehicle Removal: Expired Registration

Like AB 256, new amendments have been made to AB 925 that establish fresh standards for law enforcement officials dealing with expired vehicle registration misdemeanors. As of January 1, the law will mandate officials to cross-check the DMV records for a car’s registration status before towing vehicles with tags expired for over six months.

Assembly Bill 413 – Vehicles: Stopping, Standing and Parking

Ring in the new year with a fresh update to California’s road rules. As of Jan. 1, a new regulation known as AB 413 has been enacted, placing strict restrictions on parking or stopping your vehicle within 20 feet of an identified crosswalk, or within 15 feet of a curb that contains an extension. However, this rule is only enforceable on the side from which your vehicle approaches the crosswalk.

Fact behind the rule? It’s the forward-thinking brainchild of Assemblymember Alex Lee. He conceived the regulation as a way to improve visibility at crossroads, employing a technique aptly referred to as “daylighting”. Its primary goal? To significantly reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities.

There’s a degree of leniency to this law as well. Up until 2025, law enforcement agencies can only issue a warning if you’re found violating this law. The issuing of citations is prohibited unless this law is breeched within an area that is specifically marked with paint or a sign indicating the limits.

Assembly Bill 641 – Automobile Dismantlers: Catalytic Converters

In reaction to an alarming increase in thefts of catalytic converters, the passing of AB 641 now categorizes the possession of nine or more catalytic converters, which have been detached from a vehicle, as a misdemeanor offence for unlicensed “automobile dismantlers.” These are individuals or businesses engaged in either purchasing or selling vehicles for the express purpose of breaking them down.

The implementation of this new offense is scheduled for January 1, 2024. As per the provisions of this law, exceptions are made for individuals or businesses, such as auto repair shops, that have a credible reason for having catalytic converters at their disposal, exempting them from potential legal penalties.

Senate Bill 55 – Catalytic Converters

Aiming squarely at reducing incidents of catalytic converter theft, the new driving law, SB 55, prohibits the removal or alteration of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a catalytic converter. Moreover, the law restricts individuals from knowingly possessing three or more catalytic converters with tampered VINs.

Originated by Assemblymember Jasmeet Bains, the law’s intention is to furnish law enforcement with more means to prosecute thieves who steal these car parts. Bains also urges Californian drivers to ensure that their vehicles’ catalytic converters are marked correctly.

Bains has encouraged drivers to understand the value of getting their catalytic converter marked. In his report, he notes “…it’s worth the cost and effectively discourages theft.”

Effective from the first day of the New Year, violations of these provisions could result in misdemeanor charges. However, the law clarifies that individuals who are modifying their catalytic converters to apply a lawful new VIN or dismantle a vehicle that they lawfully own will not be subject to this law.