More Tales Of The Great Stupid: Legal Jaywalking

Guess why California just legalized jaywalking. Go ahead, guess. You know why.

The misleadingly titled “Freedom to Walk Act”—gee, would the old Twitter regime ban a “Red State” that a called a law that? Because we al have the freedom to walk, except where we know it’s not permitted. Are Californians free to trespass now? I think not—decriminalized jaywalking, which used to carry a fine, as long as the jaywalker isn’t deemed to be putting themselves or others in danger. It goes into effect January 1. Think about what such a law means: violating clearly indicated pedestrian rules that everyone is taught in childhood is now legal. So what are those rules, then? When a rule isn’t enforced, it isn’t a rule. It’s unethical to violate rules, but then California has such shattered and malfunctioning ethics alarms that it’s foolish to expect the government or the public to understand that.

Oh, right, that question: give up? Here’s the answer: the bill’s author, state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco—I bet you could have guessed where such a law’s author came from too, right?) says jaywalking laws “are arbitrarily enforced and tickets are disproportionately given to people of color and in low-income communities.” Of course that was the rationale. That’s the reason petty theft is legal now in Ting’s city, and why shoplifting is OK. If there’s a law that “criminal of color” violate in numbers disproportionate to their demographic percentages, the easy solution is to just eliminate the law! By this logic, Chicago needs to make murder legal.

Stopping someone because they jaywalked, see, is a cheap way to justify a quick frisk, and police, we are told, use jaywalking as a pretense to stop someone whom they already suspect of more serious crimes. Funny, if I were worried about that, I’d conclude that the reasonable solution would be to stop jaywalking, which is what law was designed to make me do anyway. Too many jaywalkers of color ticketed compared to the lighter shaded varieties? Tell police to ticket all jaywalkers, period. The problem isn’t that the minority jaywalkers are being discriminated against, it’s that the white jaywalkers are getting away with breaking pedestrian laws. And is it just possible that black citizens jaywalk more frequently that their white neighbors? What a racist question!

Virginia, Kansas City Mo., and Nevada have also decriminalized jaywalking in recent years, part of the progressive effort to eliminate as many laws as possible that limit chaos and establish reasonable standards of civilization. This movement has, as any fool could predict (and this fool did!), has caused a crime wave in Democrat-run cities, like Portland, where in Portland, Oregon last week clothing store Rains PDX was shut down by its owner, Marcy Landolfo, who left a note on the door reading,

“Our city is in peril. Small businesses (and large) cannot sustain doing business, in our city’s current state. We have no protection, or recourse, against the criminal behavior that goes unpunished. Do not be fooled into thinking that insurance companies cover losses. We have sustained 15 break-ins … we have not received any financial reimbursement since the 3rd.”

The store had been burglarized five times in less than three weeks. Portland set a new standard in 2020 by letting Black Lives Matters protesters break laws with impunity, and Breaking Laws Matter. If a society demonstrates that it doesn’t regard law-abiding behavior as necessary good citizenship, it will get more crime, both non-violent and violent. (Think of jaywalking as the law-breaking equivalent of an unrepaired window in th “Broken Window Syndrome.”) De Blasio’s New York stopped enforcing laws against urinating in public, vagrancy and other minor offenses, and the message got through; “Hey, breaking laws is no big deal!”

Jaywalking immunity will send the same message. Jaywalking, which means violating reasonable rules of traveling by foot in a city, will put “others in danger”; it will put others in danger because it will lead to general lack of respect for laws generally. Every wilful jaywalker’s defiance of the law without consequences increases the danger to society.

The California Sheriff’s Association opposes the law, citing a high number of pedestrian deaths in the state, which seems like a substantive reason to me. But how can you argue with logic like Ting’s, who says, “For many people living paycheck to paycheck, getting a ticket where you have to owe a few hundred dollars for simply crossing the street to go to work, to go to school or just pick up some groceries doesn’t make much sense.” Yes, you idiot, and that would suggest that such individual not jaywalk. You know, only walk when the “Walk” sign is up? How hard is that?

Here’s more California ethics, which, now that I think about it, would have been a great title for a Mamas and Papas song: “Personally, I think jaywalking is not that big of a deal, it seems like a lot of people do it,” said Cal Poly student Gavin Stoddard. A lot of people do it! What a great justification for dangerous, selfish, irresponsible behavior!

Full disclosure time: I grew up in Boston. In Boston, jaywalking is considered an art, a sport, a necessary skill. You don’t get ticketed for jaywalking in Harvard Square, you get ticked for being bad at it. That’s the culture; it had been locked in long before I came along. Drivers are also expected to learn how to deal with students running right in front of you after the light changes. It’s chaotic and one of the many aspects of driving in Boston that gave the city its well-deserved reputation as having the craziest traffic in the U.S. Yes, I was a great jaywalker in my day, and but favorite city is an anomaly. It doesn’t make California’s new law any less irresponsible and incompetent, or the pattern it continues during the Age of The Great Stupid less destructive.

19 thoughts on “More Tales Of The Great Stupid: Legal Jaywalking

  1. A simple solution would be to give motorists immunity if they hit a jaywalker. Like speech, freedom to walk has consequences. Use their logic against them.

  2. I’ll say it again, the current modus operandi of the left remains: If some group you’re being paid to advocate for can’t clear the bar, complain to get the bar lowered. If some group you’re being paid to advocate for can’t be competitive at the game, complain to get the rules changed. Because clearly, to paraphrase Harry Reid, “It works, doesn’t it!” All it takes is perseverance.

  3. I heard that law schools are eliminating the lsat because poc can’t pass it. Perhaps they should look at the root problems that puts poc at this disadvantage. We are lowering the expectations of people in many forum-law school admission, walking across the street safely, buying what you need, etc

    • Sure…lots of references. Here’s one, from the Hoover institute:

      “We probably shouldn’t call it shoplifting anymore, since that term connotes the idea of a person trying to conceal their crime. In San Francisco, there is no attempt to conceal theft, and there is almost never any effort by store employees, including security personnel, to confront the thieves. The most they do is record the thefts with their cell phones. Why is shoplifting so rampant? Because state law holds that stealing merchandise worth $950 or less is just a misdemeanor, which means that law enforcement probably won’t bother to investigate, and if they do, prosecutors will let it go.”

      Yes, it’s technically still a crime, just as in Virginia, a married person having sex with someone not his wife is technically a crime. But it’s legal in reality. Any law that isn’t enforce and that everyone knows it isn’t enforced is a dead letter, and the conduct involved is, practically speaking, legal.

    • Legal in practice. And in CA “shoplifting” is not a specific crime, it is a classification, sub-set, if you will, of the general crime of theft. If it is below the threshold monetary amount is is called Petit Theft, over that amount (or of a specific delineated item — firearm, vehicle, livestock-..-it is Grand Theft, a felony. So not only is shoplifting legal, as in not prosecuted, but all theft is.

      And the decriminalization is statewide, not just SF, by law.

      • Show me where shoplifting is legal in San Fransisco.

        It’s still a misdemeanor and people are being charged for it. So I don’t understand these points.

          • Jack is correct. The strange thing, however, is (as I have witnessed) that at Walgreens – the only non-Chinese store in my neighborhood – back about five years or more – if a theft was spotted before the thief exited through the automated door-openers, the cashier closest to the door (usually the biggest male employee) would say, politely, that he “would be happy to help you check out – sir/ma’am” and that was usually the end of it. The customer, whose attention had already been distracted, would either stammer something about changing his/her mind and leave the item at the end of the counter and flee, or try running away with it. If the latter, as they stepped further toward the exit onto the doormat, a flash triggered by the employee went off in their face. No camera. Just a flash from a low-level. An invention of one of the store’s managers. I saw it in action once; very convincing. Unfortunately, the set-up vanished when the manager was transferred (probably to solve the same problem elsewhere). Nowadays, it’s full-time guards, seated half-screened at the side of the auto-doors. They’re just as good as The Flash because – and I don’t know how this is tested for – they have remarkable facial-recognition skills. I asked one of them if they could recognize Chinese customers as well. He laughed. “Only if they’re tourists,” he said. “I’m a natural-born tourist-recognizer.” And then,” he added, “all I have to do is give them The Stare.” He demonstrated. Yup. That did it.

          • It’s not quibbling when someone on a law blog says “petty crime is legal”

            And then backtracks and says “well, it’s actually still illegal, but not enforced”

            And then it’s pointed out that petty crimes are in fact still prosecuted. Often.

            Again, do you want me to search the court dockets and find cases where criminals are being prosecuted for petty crime?

            Criminals erroneously thinking they wont be charged for theft, when they actual will be, doesn’t make it “legal”

            • Again, you’re deliberately pretending what was clear in the writing meant something it was not intended to. I’ve suggested twice that you look it up. The now deposed SF DA ran on a platform of not enforcing petty theft, an for the most part, delivered on his promise. The attitude in S.F. is poor people (especially “BIPOC”) shouldn’t be punished for “needing” to steal. I’m not making up the fact that whole chains have pulled stores out of the city because of unenforced shoplifting. Some thieves may be arrested, but they are either not prosecuted, or the punishment is so trivial that it makes the theft a good bargain.

              Yes, by all means, search the court dockets. Thanks for volunteering. It would be very helpful.

  4. This is good news! Since the negative consequences of laws governing the purchase and possession of firearms disproportionately affect minorities, I look forward to democrats dropping their efforts to further impose restrictions on Second Amendment rights.

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