You won't have to sit behind the wheel to get a $1,000 ticket for illegal street racing under a Modesto Police Department proposal aimed at cutting off dangerous drivers.
Police Chief Roy Wasden wants to crack down on racers and reckless drivers associated with hyphy sideshows by pushing for a law that would punish spectators who encourage those events.
The department's draft cleared a hurdle Monday night when the City Council's Safety and Communities Committee passed it by a 2-1 vote. It must go to the full council before it can be put on the books.
Officers and the city attorney's office modeled the proposal after laws adopted in a mix of California cities, such as Stockton and San Diego. It allows for penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 citation.
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"It's giving the police the option to take it from the driver to the very involved spectators," Councilman Brad Hawn said.
Councilman Will O'Bryant, the committee's chairman and a retired sheriff's detective in Alameda County, voted against the proposal. He said he wasn't convinced that Modesto has a street racing problem that warrants restrictions on people standing in public places.
"Right now it's premature," O'Bryant said, arguing that he'd rather see a push to punish reckless drivers instead of spectators.
"We're going after the wrong group."
O'Bryant asked Lt. Bill Ryan, the department's traffic supervisor, how frequently officers cite people for street racing, which is illegal under state law.
Ryan didn't give O'Bryant a clear answer, saying, "We're not overwhelmed by them."
Wasden said the department would prepare a thorough rundown of Modesto street racing for the council vote.
"There is some level," Wasden said, citing complaints from people in industrial areas of the city. "I just don't think we brought the information."
High burden of proof needed
Ryan described the ordinance as targeting two types of illegal events.
One centers on racing, where spectators are known to place bets on drivers. The other is aimed at reckless driving, such as sideshows.
Ryan illustrated his presentation with pictures of people standing on moving cars that weren't under a driver's control, a technique known as "ghost riding the whip."
City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said the proposal was designed to carry a relatively high burden of proof so it doesn't catch innocent bystanders. It requires that prosecutors prove the spectator knowingly attended an illegal event, for example.
Wasden said having the law in place could prove to be the deterrent his department is seeking, even if it's used rarely.
Some of the factors that can demonstrate intent to watch an illegal event under the proposal include:
- The time of day
"It would really go after the people that are organizing or participating," Wood said.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.