SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California could soon increase the punishment against those who are caught participating in “sideshows.”
Assemblyman Vince Fong said his bill, Assembly Bill 3, would make the punishment of participating in a sideshow the same as the punishment handed down for participating in an illegal street race, most notably by allowing a judge to suspend an offender's drivers license for up to six months.
As it stands, the typical punishment given to sideshow participants is a fine, Fong said.
“Right now, under the current law, if you engage in a street race, there are certain penalties that include the suspension of a drivers license. But if you engage in a sideshow, there isn’t that same penalty,” Fong said.
Fong, R – Kern County, said he created his bill in response to what he called a “staggering rise” in street racing and sideshows across the state of California. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) alone has received more than 25,000 calls for street racing and sideshows in recent years, Fong said, and there has been a 300% increase statewide in citations issued these events.
“This is a huge problem. And of course, with what has happened with COVID – the restrictions and the lockdowns – we’ve seen an increase because the streets have been practically empty,” Fong said.
In most instances, sideshows are simply a public nuisance. But in some cases, they can be tragic. In September 2020, Sacramento State student Austin Dubinetskiy, 21, suffered critical injuries during a sideshow in the Natomas area.
“The startling reality is: you can find tragic street racing stories in the newspaper every day of the week across California. Every single one of these crashes are preventable,” Fong said.
Then there are sideshows, like one that occurred in West Sacramento in February 2021, that destroy private property. In that incident, some sideshow drivers and spectators drove on and trampled about 30 feet of cover crop at a local non-profit farm that provides for food-insecure homes, 3 Sisters Gardens. No arrests were made and no citations were handed out.
Another important component of AB 3, according to Fong, in addition to the threat of license suspension, is that it gives a judge discretion for handing down stricter punishment to repeat offenders.
Fong also said there is no additional cost to the state or local law enforcement should AB 3 be signed into law.
“Our law enforcement throughout the state is asking for more assistance, is asking for more tools to address, not only street racing but…these sideshows. This bill is a common-sense step forward to give them the tools to address this growing problem,” Fong said.
AB 3 has passed through the State Assembly and has made it through the Senate Transportation Committee. It is now being considered by the Senate Public Safety Committee. From there it goes to appropriations. If it passes all those hurdles, it will go to Gov. Gavin Newsom and upon his signature would become law on Jan. 1, 2022.