California Ends Automatic Fines for Loud Vehicle Exhausts With New Law

The bill restores the "fix-it" ticket system in place before the aggressive fines were introduced in 2018.

Ford

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill into effect which prevents drivers with excessively loud exhausts from receiving hefty tickets on-the-spot. Recent legislature from 2018 required police officers to dish out fines if they found cars' exhaust systems to breach the state-mandated 95-decibel limit, whereas now drivers will be allowed to fix the issue and pay a comparatively small dismissal fee afterward.

Senate bill SB-112, as well as similar amendment AB-390, was lobbied for by members of the modified car community. This includes over 1,700 SEMA member companies that make their living working with performance vehicles. 

The ruling, which reverses the old AB-1824 that was passed by former state governor Jerry Brown and took away "fix-it" tickets initially, will be instated immediately rather than the previously proposed date of January 2020.

Although this does not raise the legal noise limit for vehicle exhausts, it does make it possible for drivers to avoid fines which were often as high as $197. Now, so long as the equipment is repaired and is found to be quieter than the legal maximum by SAE testing methods, drivers can provide proof to authorities in court and pay a fee that should typically amount to $25 or less. This process must be completed within 30 days of receiving the ticket

"On behalf of the over 1,700 SEMA member companies in California, as well as enthusiasts statewide, SEMA thanks Governor Newsom for signing this critical legislation into law,” said Daniel Ingber, SEMA’s vice president for legal and government affairs, in a statement. “With his signature, Governor Newsom restored due process for motorists in the Golden State."

Ninety-five decibels is certainly louder than any factory-fitted exhaust as it measures only slightly quieter than a jet flyover at 1,000 feet (103 dB). Noise levels near 100 dB can cause serious hearing damage if exposure lasts eight hours or more, as noted by this chart from Purdue University.

In addition to the 95-decibel rule, vehicles must also comply with the state of California's designated SMOG limits. Similar emissions regulations have also been adopted by Minnesota and New Mexico, while the Trump administration looks to strip these states of their right to set stricter emissions standards than required by federal law.