California Driver Handbook

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Section 1 of 28

New 2020 Laws

Effective January 1, 2020

SB 485 (Beall, Ch. 505, Stats. 2019)

This law repeals provisions that authorize or require courts to suspend, revoke, or restrict a driver, or order the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to delay licensure for a person convicted of prostitution or vandalism, a minor convicted of unlawful possession or use of a firearm, or offenses related to possession, purchase, sale, or transport of controlled substances involving the use of a vehicle. The law also prohibits courts from ordering DMV to delay licensure, suspend, revoke, or restrict a person based upon a conviction of minor’s possession/use of controlled substances or alcohol for specified violations.

AB 2918 (Holden, Ch. 723, Stats. 2018)

This law requires the DMV to include information in the California Driver Handbook regarding a person’s civil rights during a traffic stop, including the right to file a complaint against a peace officer, as specified. The following information was developed by the civil rights section of the Department of Justice in consultation with DMV, the California Highway Patrol, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, and civil rights organizations:

Your Rights During an Enforcement Stop

If an officer asks your permission to do something, you have a right to say no. However, if you say no and the officer says they are going to do it anyway, you do not have a right to interfere with their actions. For example, an officer may request to search part or all of your vehicle. You have a right to decline that request, but the officer may have the legal authority to search your vehicle anyway under certain circumstances. If you do not want the officer to search your vehicle, you should clearly say that you do not give your permission, but you do not have a right to resist or obstruct the officer if they search your vehicle anyway.

The driver of a stopped vehicle must produce a driver license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration when stopped by law enforcement. If a driver does not produce these documents, officers may conduct a limited search for them. An officer may also request the names or identification of passengers. Passengers can decline that request, but under some circumstances the passengers may be required to identify themselves anyway. If passengers do not want to produce their identification, they should clearly say so. Passengers should not interfere with the officer’s  duties in conducting the traffic stop, and if an officer demands identification, passengers should not interfere with the officer’s actions. During a traffic stop, an officer can legally require the driver and all passengers to exit or stay inside the vehicle–if you are told to exit the vehicle or stay inside, you must do so.

In California, only federal law enforcement officers can ask you about your immigration status. California law prohibits state and local officers from asking drivers or passengers about their immigration status. If a California law enforcement officer asks you about your immigration status, you can decline to answer.

In general, the First Amendment protects the right of drivers and passengers to record interactions with police in public spaces. If you are recording, you should immediately make that clear. You do not have a right to interfere with the officer’s lawful duties during the enforcement stop, and you should not reach into concealed areas to retrieve your recording device without the officer’s permission. If your recording is not interfering with the officer’s ability to lawfully do their job, an officer cannot confiscate your recording device, delete the recording, or destroy the device just because you are using it to record. In general, you also have the right to deny a request to “unlock” a cellular phone or provide a password to it, though under some circumstances–such as if you are on parole–you may have to give permission in response to such requests. Finally, no government employee can retaliate against you just because you recorded something in public.

Even if you believe your rights were violated, you should not engage in physical resistance or violence against the officer. If an officer does something that you believe violates your rights, you can voice your objection, but you should not physically resist. Everyone has the right to be safe during a traffic stop; your safety and the officer’s safety could be jeopardized if the situation escalates with physical resistance or violence.

All members of the public have a right to file a complaint against any peace officer or law enforcement agency, and it is against the law for any government employee to retaliate against you for doing so. You can file a complaint with any agency that employs the officer, whether a sheriff’s office, police department, or any other law enforcement agency. You have a right to be free from discrimination based on your actual or perceived race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, medical condition, or citizenship status. You also have other rights guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions, as well as California and federal laws. When you file a complaint, the agency that employs the officer must investigate the complaint. Links to contact information for California law enforcement agencies can be found at: https://post.ca.gov/le-agencies.