For Immediate Release: 10/9/23
Contact: Jared Sanchez, CalBike (714) 262-0921, Jared@CalBike.org
Governor Newsom Vetoes Bill to Decriminalize Transit Fare Evasion
SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom has vetoed (AB 819, Bryan), which would have removed criminal penalties for transit fare evasion while leaving fines in place. The veto leaves it as a misdemeanor classification, leading to possible jail time for failing to pay a $2.00 fare.
CalBike strongly disagrees with Governor Gavin Newsom’s position and that of transit agencies that opposed this measure. In his veto statement, the governor said, “According to one operator, the bulk of the crimes committed in their system are committed by people who have not paid a fare. I cannot take an action to reduce penalties on fare evasion that could, in turn, contribute to an increase in crime on transit.”
The governor assumes that criminal penalties deter fare evasion when, in reality, many people fail to pay transit fares because of a lack of funds or running to catch a bus. Misdemeanor charges for fare evasion can result in a criminal record, adding to a cycle of poverty and underemployment.
Other laws are already in place to charge people who commit crimes on public transit. Criminalizing fare evasion is an example of the failed “broken windows” model of crime prevention, which does not deter crime but does victimize already marginalized populations.
“Fare evasion enforcement is often aimed at California’s communities of color while speeders on our highways are rarely cited,” said Jared Sanchez, policy director of CalBike. “AB 819 would have been a step in the right direction to end the criminalization of people just trying to get where they need to go.”
Existing law makes it a crime, punishable as an infraction and, subsequently, as a misdemeanor, for an adult to evade payment of a fare of a public transportation system. Under existing law, a third or subsequent violation of fare evasion “… is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $400 or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, or both.”