By on May 6, 2019

Last week, San Jose became subject to borderline draconian street-racing laws after city council (unanimously) voted to pass legislation effectively making it illegal to even watch impromptu automotive exhibitions. However, “spectating” is loosely defined in the new law, as parties don’t have to know a race is going on to get into trouble.

Even milling around a car show before shenanigans break out is enough to earn someone a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

The new laws give police plenty of power to break up late-night car events, plus the ability  to arrest whomever they want — creating a pretty good incentive to just stay home, rather than risk getting into trouble. It also feels like overkill, and it sets an ugly precedent for punishing Californians who aren’t actively contributing to a crime. 

The San Jose Police Department doesn’t see things that way, however. “Often times, these individuals are doing these sideshows exactly because people are watching,” SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia told ABC7 Newsfollowing the new ordinance’s approval.

Police feel that California’s penchant for street racing is simply to serious a problem to handle with kid gloves. Garcia even went to city council members to explain that races and driving exhibitions often involve hundreds of spectators who can get in the way — sometimes blocking traffic with their own vehicles or impeding a police chase by standing in the way. While it sounds semi-ridiculous, anyone who’s watched enough street racing videos online (or actually attended one) knows that this can and does happen — sometimes accidentally, as everyone simultaneously attempts to leave the scene.

The memorandum cites numerous cases in which street racing or public driving displays ended in tragedy before explaining how authorities want to expand the legal onus to spectators:

Street racing and sideshows attract spectators as well as participants. Sizable crowds will gather to watch races or side shows, where participants exhibit automotive stunts, such as driving in tight circles known as donuts. Spectators will often take video of these events and post them on social media. This behavior can expose street racing to a broader audience and potentially perpetuate the activity and increase its popularity.

In addition to providing an audience for street racing and advertising it on social media, spectators can also help to directly facilitate it. Crowds of spectators can block off intersections and streets from traffic to clear open stretches of road where racing can occur or where automotive stunts can be performed. As they block off intersections or line streets, spectators place themselves in close proximity to speeding vehicles, endangering their own safety as they enable an activity that can endanger others.

As the new ordinance is fairly nonspecific as to what constitutes spectating, guilty parties will be identified by little more than police intuition. If you don’t have a totally plausible excuse for being there, odds are good you’ll be found guilty of something. The new rule even makes it illegal to be present for racing or exhibition “preparations,” which could be as simple as showing up to a car show that later breaks out into a donut competition.

This is the real problem. Since you cannot control everyone at an event, it seems wrong to create a law that penalizes anyone who happens to be within 200 feet of a race or exhibition — which is basically the only hard and fast criteria officers have regarding the matter. We’re also not certain if raids are the safest way to curtail this behavior, especially since people in San Jose now know it’s illegal just to be within the vicinity of illicit activities.

Spectators already flee illegal auto exhibitions when authorities roll in, whether they’ve committed a crime or not. The new ordinance makes it all the more important not to have contact with the police, as saying “I was just spectating” is now an admission of criminal behavior. Attending these events may be less appetizing now, but the police have also incentivized running.

Both San Jose city council and the SJPD plan to regroup in six months to discuss data and trends with the new ordinance in place. If you’d like to examine it yourself, it’s available at San Jose’s legislative website. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

[Image: AppleZoomZoom/Shutterstock]

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39 Comments on “California City Passes Law Making it Illegal to Even Be Near a Street Race...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Yes, but is it illegal to *think* about a street race?

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      Stay tuned. This IS California we’re talking about here…

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Yeah, no kidding .

        This sounds like insane virtue signalling to me and I’ve never wanted to street race .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          True, it’s virtue-signaling, just like sticking the Ten Commandments in a courtroom is virtue signaling. The only difference is which virtue is being signaled.

          This law won’t get passed, and if it does, it’ll get stricken down. Last I checked, witnessing something illegal isn’t a crime in this country.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Well ;

            Yes and no ~

            My son was into street racing for a while during his 20’s (he’s soon to turn 41) and got pinched twice for spectating street racing .

            He never got caught at it nor wrecked his car but they were able to $queeze him hard, _really_ hard .

            When they said they’d confiscate his car the next time, he stopped, not before .

            As usual the ‘tards who DON’T LIVE HERE are making stupid comments .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    James2

    I’m stumped. What car is that in the b/w photo?

  • avatar
    IBx1

    How does that song go again?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “It wasn’t ME.” – Shaggy

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        I was thinking of one by a group called NWA, can’t remember the title though

        • 0 avatar
          WildcatMatt

          That was the song “Thank The Police” by the group Nice White Anybodys, amirite?

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Pretty much, yes .

            I remember when nwa and other hate filled trash came out, my son was still young then and ate it up ~ his mother flipped out, I remembered my listening to “race music” as a child, shrugged and told her to pick better battles .

            He no longer cares about rap, I’m still listening to those old records I loved way back when .

            If you don’t like being hassled by the police, stop acting like animals .

            -Nate
            (and, STAY OFF MY LAWN !)

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Eh, it’s California. Just tell the cops you were sleeping off a heroin bender when a drag race broke out. Extra points if you’re laying in your own feces or you scatter some needles about you on the sidewalk.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Naw, you were only there to PROTEST against street racing.
    Actually, like Rock and Roll, is that even a thing anymore? At least enough to pass a goofy law like this one onto the books?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    California needs to be obliterated.

    Clearly the state is full of mentally deficient people that vote for mentally deficient politicians.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I just wish they would secede already. Let them do what they want, just leave me out of it. It wouldn’t even be that hard. They even have border checkpoints that they call agriculture checkpoints.

      P.S. If you are a citizen of California that is tired of California policies and you leave the state, don’t try to vote for those people and policies in your new state. -Signed the citizens of the other 40 states.

      • 0 avatar
        prabal34

        As a Californian I am appalled by what you have said and hereby ban you for making such indignant comments!

        Haha jk. It kinda sucks to be caught in all this and having little to no control as all the taxes and laws spiral out of control. We try to vote against such leadership but we are the real minorities here :(

  • avatar
    Roader

    My guess is that the new law will run into that pesky “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” clause in the U.S. Constitution. Unless they’re blocking a road or doing something else illegal, San Jose is going to have a hard time prosecuting people standing around a public place.

  • avatar
    don1967

    California is the epicenter of SJW insanity, and should serve as a warning to the rest of the so-called “free world”.

    Repeat after me: Just because it sounds logical doesn’t mean it requires a law making it mandatory.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Don’t kid yourself – right-wing SJW nannyism exists as well. The only difference is that “the right” defines social justice differently. Right wing SJWs push nonsense like burying unborn fetuses (which the sitting vice-president actually signed into law when he was a state governor), or letting businesses flip the bird at their customers because they don’t like what they do in bed, or holding people criminally liable for oral sex.

      Most of the right-wing SJW nonsense ends up dead in a federal court, as this stupid left-wing SJW law in San Jose will.

      It happens because “the left” and “the right” feel the need to whip up their supporters, when what we should be doing is minding our own business.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The whole idea of the left is about minding other people’s business. If you haven’t figured that much out yet, you don’t know what you’re doing.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @todd
          You can’t lump an entire group together. People of all political persuasions have a habit of minding other peoples business. Telling them what to do with their own bodies and whom to marry. Right?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            You miss the point, mcs…some folks like to think of themselves as intellectually superior based on their political opinions, and the only way you can do that is to lump the inferiors who disagree with you together.

            Otherwise you have to – GASP!!!! – take them all as individuals. That’s no fun, is it?

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            The guiding principal of leftism is to sacrifice other people in order to achieve great evil. Stop looking for false equivalences while leftists are doing what they do; which is silencing opposition, stripping human rights, trafficking children for sex, executing a command economy and destroying families to create more dysfunctional leftist sheep and vulnerable children. When you look in the mirror, I hope you see the face of a thug bullying some old woman in the street for wearing the wrong hat or stopping an ICE agent from removing a child from sex slavery.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Maybe you todd , should stop lying and trying to blame historically right wing criminal acts on the ‘lelfties’ .

            I’m old and staunchly Conservative and remember when being Conservative meant honesty above all else .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Are you saying that you did all the things leftists have done since Karl Marx first got boils? Have you ever met someone who fell for your claims about being a conservative when you are accusing conservatives of behaving like Democrats?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            to people like Toddy Boy, it’s OK when his side does it because his side is unquestionably correct.

            kind of hard to argue with someone who thinks they’re right about absolutely everything and anyone who disagrees with his beliefs is wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            LOL, guy must be a real gas at parties.

            Reminds me of my old neighbor, who slapped an “Obama is a communist” on his car. Asked him why Obama was a communist, and he said, and I quote, “because he wants to raise my taxes!!!”

            I politely informed him that under communism, taxes wouldn’t exist. He yelled “stupid liberal!” at me.

            Some folks are best left alone to exist in their own echo chamber.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          And ditto most of those who now try to pass themselves off as non leftists. If “the right” wold just stop being just as intrusive as “the left,” and instead started minding their own business, and only their own business, they just may have a bit of a leg to stand on.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        ” letting businesses flip the bird at their customers ”

        Not “Letting” people decide whom to play backgammon, or otherwise associate, with, is the textbook definition of totalitarianism.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          See I thought everyone’s money was equally green. Isn’t that a shorthand definition of capitalism?

          You got money (or credit)? Let’s talk then.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Did I say they should be *forced* into snowflake mode and not bake cakes for people whose sex lives they don’t approve of? No. If they want to be idiots, let them. But let’s call it what it is: stupidity…and right-wing SJW nonsense.

          People who serve the public and expect to be able to apply half-cocked sexual morality tests to their customers should find another line of work. Seriously.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Said the drones who have no problems with people they disagree with being denied access to banking or communications technologies. The worst people in history are right here.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            You can’t teach a closed mind .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    volvo

    Thread has lots of comments about the social/political scene in California.

    As a resident of the state since 1964 I have wondered about that myself. I am reminded of a quote made by Art Laffer quite a while ago.

    “Art Laffer said it best. When asked why any business continues to stay and put up with the incredibly oppressive environment in California, he answered. “Why are the pretty girls generally the meanest? Because they can be.”

    So climate, geography and incredibly diverse mix of cultures keep many of us here who may not completely agree with current state regulatory and economic policies.


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