California Police Now Can’t Ask Common Questions During Traffic Stops

( – A new state law in California that is aimed at reducing hostile interactions between police officers and civilians will go into effect on January 1. Police will no longer be allowed to ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over,” but instead will inform the driver or pedestrian of the reason they were stopped. According to AB 2773, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in the fall of 2022, officers can skip the statement if they believe they need to “protect life or property from imminent threat.” Officers will also be required to document the reason for all stops, and law enforcement agencies must frequently check for compliance with the new law.

One of the reasons the law was created was to prevent police officers from conducting pretext stops, which is defined as using minor infractions as a reason to initiate a traffic stop with the intention of finding additional infractions. California traffic laws give officers a whole host of infractions to look for during stops, and lawmakers who supported the bill indicated that they believe racial bias is exacerbated by pretext stops. Another comment from lawmakers in support of the bill discussed how communities lose trust in law enforcement when they frequently conduct pretext stops.

The California State Sheriff’s Association opposed the passage of the law when it was still in the Senate Committee on Public Safety. They argued that the exception to the law was too narrow and that officers would not be allowed to ask the motorist to turn off the vehicle or hand over identification information before telling them why they were being pulled over. They further argued that officers use certain lines of questioning to conduct risk assessments from the outset that could prevent dangerous situations from occurring.

Police interactions with civilians have come under extreme scrutiny in recent years, prompting lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to reform certain practices. In January 2024, The El Paso Police Department in Texas will begin debating whether police officers should be required to ask an individual to disclose their gender pronouns and gender identity as a way to improve interactions.

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