Home>Articles>Bill to Limit Police Issuing Tickets for ‘Low-Level Violations’ Fails to Pass

Senator Steven Bradford. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill to Limit Police Issuing Tickets for ‘Low-Level Violations’ Fails to Pass

SB 50 could come back next session

By Evan Symon, September 16, 2023 7:33 am

A bill to limit law enforcement officers from issuing tickets for “low-level violations,” such as expired plates or  having a light out, was moved to the inactive file shortly before the final Assembly vote on Thursday, leaving the bills chances for approval up in the air until January.

Senate Bill 50, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would prohibit a law enforcement officer from stopping or detaining the operator of a motor vehicle or bicycle for a low-level infraction unless a separate, independent basis for a stop exists. The bill would authorize a law enforcement officer who does not have grounds to stop a vehicle or bicycle, but can determine the identity of the owner, to send a citation or warning letter to the owner.

According to SB 50, low-level infractions would include:

  • A violation related to the registration of a vehicle or vehicle equipment
  • A violation related to the positioning or number of license plates when at least one plate is clearly displayed
  • A violation related to vehicle lighting equipment not illuminating, if the violation is limited to a single brake light, headlight, rear license plate, or running light, or a single bulb in a larger light of the same
  • A violation related to vehicle bumper equipment
  • A violation related to bicycle equipment or operation

In addition, window tinting was originally included in the bill before being removed in a later version. Commercial vehicles would not be covered by the bill and would still be able to be pulled over solely for any of the above reasons if the bill is passed.

Written by Senator Bradford because of racial profiling concerns by police officers simply pulling over vehicles on one of those pretexts when there is suspicion, as well as concerns of escalated violence in traffic stops caused by simple pull overs, SB 50 had a very rocky time in the legislature this year. The bill quickly divided the legislature, with Republicans and some Democrats coming out against the bill because of traffic infractions listed by the bill being put into place to help save lives.

SB 50 heads to the inactive file

“A lot of times police will find bad people,” said Senator Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) earlier this year. “Like in Riverside when they got the notorious serial killer William Suff. He was actually pulled over for a taillight violation and subsequently they figured out who he was and arrested him.”

In late May, the bill narrowly passed 22-11 with 7 abstaining. Amendments to the bill were soon tacked on to help explain things as well as make the bill more palatable for those lawmakers on the fence. However, this only had limited success. SB 50 moved slowly through the Assembly, picking up more and more detractors throughout the summer. In an Assembly Appropriations Committee vote earlier this month, the bill only passed 10-5 with an abstention, signaling that the bill may not survive an Assembly vote, another Senate vote, or going past Newsom for his signature. Peace Officers Research Association of California President Brian Marvel said that it was even odds of passing going into Thursday.

“I would put it as a toss-up, to be quite honest with you,” said Marvel.

However, rather than go to a vote, SB 50 was moved to the inactive file on Thursday because of doubts of whether it could even pass. The bill can still come back in January for another shot at being passed, or die from a lack of support.

“There is a big Democratic majority, but you cannot just bank on that if you are in the Assembly or Senate,” added “Dana,” a Capitol staffer. “A lot of Democrats absolutely care about public safety, and in this case, how those low-level violations can help find criminals. So, this is divisive and it wasn’t brought up this time around. It could be tried in January or as an entirely new bill like before. We’ll see if it can be salvaged or not.”

SB 50 is currently in the inactive file.

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5 thoughts on “Bill to Limit Police Issuing Tickets for ‘Low-Level Violations’ Fails to Pass

  1. Very glad to see this update about the wrongheaded, pro-criminal, anti-public safety SB 50. I suspect that by the time this is brought back from the dead, IF it is —- next legislative session, next year, whatever —- such misguided efforts will be seen as even more foolish and irrelevant than they are already. Guess we’ll see

  2. It’s just not sporting to pull over three Amish youths for a missing tail light and see they are armed, blood spattered and just robbed a bank.
    As they say, “fish where the fish are”.

  3. “Written by Senator Bradford because of racial profiling concerns…”

    Wouldn’t it be simpler and more efficient to simply exempt blacks from all the laws?

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