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2021 California Legislative Session: Jaywalking in California

In the 2021 California Legislative Session, the California State Legislature passed a bill that would have mostly decriminalized jaywalking in California and shifted the rights of way between cars and pedestrians on the streets. (In our June 1, 2021 blog posting we discussed that bill and some of its potential consequences – California’s “Freedom to Walk Act”: How Decriminalizing Jaywalking Could Affect Premise Liability Cases.) That bill, Assembly Bill 1238, was vetoed by Governor Newsom in October 2021.

Now, Assembly Member Phil Ting has introduced Assembly Bill 2147, a new pro-jaywalking bill for the 2022 session. This time, the focus of the bill is on police enforcement of portions of the California Vehicle Code pertaining to pedestrians. Unlike last year’s AB 1238, the new AB 2147 mostly maintains the status quo on who has the right of way on the streets, but instead largely prohibits police from enforcing those rules.

AB 2147 muddies factual and legal issues regarding jaywalking and could effectively lead to a reduction of enforcement by mandating that “A peace officer […] shall not stop a pedestrian for a violation [of the Vehicle Code] unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.” Thus, a pedestrian who violates the Vehicle Code will argue that they should not be subject to a law enforcement stop or legal consequences as long as they claim that there was not an “imminent danger of collision.” The existence or non-existence of an “immediate danger of collision” may be a difficult fact to prove, and unlike AB 1238 from last year, AB 2147 contains no definition of “immediate danger” to clarify the issue.

The potential reduction in enforcement stops anticipated by the drafters of AB 2147 may lead to more jaywalking. In the context of civil litigation, further questions arise, including whether persons or business would have a duty to prevent their invited customers from jaywalking due to the foreseeability that they will jaywalk. See California’s “Freedom to Walk Act”: How Decriminalizing Jaywalking Could Affect Premise Liability Cases. Whether AB 2147 passes, and what its consequences would be, remain to be seen.

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