San Jose City Council just empowered their local police department to slap you with a $1,000 fine and jail time just for looking at a sideshow.

San Jose City Council has officially had enough with sideshows and made it officially city law, as part of a new ordinance, to even WATCH a sideshow. That’s right, you don’t even have to be driving a drift car or actively blocking driveways or street intersections to get hit with a fine and jail time. According to a recent vote taken by San Jose City Council earlier today (Apr. 30,2019), San Jose police can now arrest you and slap you with a $1,000 fine if you’re watching a sideshow.

The vote, more or less went off without opposition from any other council member with yea votes in favor of the ordinance all around. The new ordinance is not that long but is rather wordy. Here are the relevant parts.

What is defined as a sideshow in this new ordinance?

Unlike Oakland, San Jose takes its governing law as to what a sideshow is from the California Vehicle Code 23103 which states,

“A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

That encompasses pretty much any and all sideshow activity. Keep in mind that the same spectator laws also encompass street racing activity.

What is a spectator?

According to the ordinance,

“Spectator” shall mean any person who is present at a Street Race or Reckless Driving Exhibition, or the site of the Preparations for either of these activities, for the purpose of viewing, observing, watching, or witnessing the event as it progresses. A “Spectator” includes any person at the location of the event without regard to the means by which the person arrived.

A person is “present” at the Street Race or Reckless Driving Exhibition if that person is within two hundred (200) feet of the location of the Street Race or Reckless Driving Exhibition, or within two hundred (200) feet of the site of the

That technically means if you’re 201 feet away from the street race or sideshow, police won’t arrest and/or fine you. What this really means is that if police see you’re standing far enough from a sideshow and aren’t watching the activity, you won’t be cited.

Fines and jail?

Authorities confirmed with KRON 4 news that violations of this ordinance are punishable as a misdemeanor and you can be fined UP TO $1,000 and/or 6 months in jail. Most likely, not to burden city police resources, you’ll be given a fine.

This new ordinance has some legal analysts, like criminal defense attorney Steven Clark, questioning the legality of it all. According to Clark in his quote to the San Jose Mercury News, 

“What you’re suggesting here is that the mere watching of criminal behavior means you can be punished criminally,” Clark said. “That raises some conceptual problems. You can’t be punished for a crime you didn’t commit.”

Of course, San Jose police say otherwise.

Keen eyes reading the ordinance linked will notice that there’s a memorandum from two other council members with a request to follow-up in six months. That means they’re going to want to see results from this ordinance most likely meaning San Jose Police will be itching to hand out fines as soon as possible.

If you’re in San Jose and are invited to watch a street race or sideshow, know that San Jose Police can now legally hand out tickets, arrest you or both.

Source: San Jose City Government


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