New language in the state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) handbook informing drivers of their rights during and after a traffic stop will appear in the book next spring.
The handbook currently includes sections on rail transit safety, abandonment or dumping of animals on a highway and the importance of respecting the right-of-way of others, particularly pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorcycle riders.
AB 2918 — authored by Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden, a former Pasadena City Council member — requires the department to also include within the handbook information regarding a person’s civil rights during a traffic stop, including the right to file a complaint against a peace officer, as developed by the civil rights section of the Department of Justice in consultation with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, and civil rights organizations.
“Knowing your rights is a right in itself. That is why I authored Assembly Bill 2918,” Holden told the Pasadena Weekly. “The Driver’s Handbook includes suggestions on how to conduct oneself during a traffic stop, but stops short of stating the rights of the driver. Safety is paramount and being informed of your rights can help alleviate stress and avoid escalations caused by being on edge. I’m looking forward to seeing the new language in the 2020 DMV handbook.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the National Center for Youth Law helped craft the language in the bill, which was signed into law in April.
The new information addresses the extent of a peace officer’s authority during a traffic stop and the legal rights of drivers and passengers, including, but not limited to the right to file complaints against a peace officer.
“Studies show that people of color in California are most affected by traffic stops. Safety is paramount and staying informed of the driver’s rights can help alleviate stress and avoid escalations caused by being on edge,” said Holden in June 2018 when the bill was introduced.
The state has never collected data from police departments identifying racial demographics involving people involved in traffic stops.
In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), which requires law enforcement agencies to collect basic information during police stops in response to growing concerns about racial profiling and police misconduct. Pasadena will start collecting that data in 2023.