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New California Law Aims to Change How Police Conduct Traffic Stops

California is set to bring significant changes to the way police conduct traffic stops starting in January 2024. The state has passed a new law, AB 2773, which prohibits officers from asking the common question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” during traffic stops and requires them to state the purpose of the stop upfront.

Clear Purpose Statement Required

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This legislation, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in the fall of 2022, aims to reduce pretextual stops and improve interactions between law enforcement and civilians.

Under the new law, law enforcement officers in California must begin a traffic stop or pedestrian encounter by stating the purpose of the stop before proceeding with any other questions. 

Effective Jan 1, 2024

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This change is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2024. The only exception to this rule is if an officer believes it’s necessary “to protect life or property from imminent threat.”

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Addressing Pretextual Stops

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The primary goal of this law is to tackle “pretextual stops,” a practice where officers pull over a vehicle or pedestrian for minor infractions with the intent of conducting searches to uncover more severe offenses, such as expired paperwork or possession of certain items. By mandating that officers clearly communicate the reason for the stop upfront, the law seeks to curtail this practice.

Emphasis on De-escalation

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Another crucial aspect of AB 2773 is its focus on de-escalating interactions between law enforcement and civilians. By ensuring that the purpose of the stop is transparent from the outset, the law aims to reduce tension and the potential for confrontations during traffic stops.

Assemblymember Chris Holden’s Statement

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Assemblymember Chris Holden, the author of the bill, emphasized the legislation’s intent to “promote equity and accountability in communities.” During a legislative committee hearing, he underlined the importance of addressing the issue of pretextual stops and creating a fairer and more transparent system.

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Monitoring Compliance and Reporting

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AB 2773 also imposes obligations on law enforcement agencies. They are required to monitor compliance with the law’s provisions and include in their reports the reasons for all stops they conduct. This reporting requirement aims to ensure accountability and transparency in policing practices.

Enhancing Community Relations

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AB 2773’s emphasis on de-escalation and accountability is expected to contribute to improved relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. By promoting equity and fairness in policing, the law seeks to build trust and understanding.

Continued Oversight

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AB 2773 does not stop at its initial implementation; it includes provisions for ongoing monitoring and reporting.

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Promoting Safer Traffic Stops

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One of the byproducts of AB 2773 is the potential for safer traffic stops. With officers required to provide a clear purpose for the stop, interactions between law enforcement and individuals may become more straightforward and less stressful.

Acknowledging Community Concerns

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The passage of AB 2773 reflects the state’s acknowledgment of concerns within the community regarding police practices. By addressing these concerns through legislative reform, California aims to build a more just and equitable society.

Enhancing Transparency

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California’s AB 2773, set to take effect in 2024, marks a significant change in how police conduct traffic stops. The law’s requirement for officers to state the purpose of the stop upfront aims to prevent pretextual stops, enhance transparency, and improve community relations. This legislative reform represents a step forward in California’s commitment to equity, accountability, and fair policing practices.

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