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California's "New" Exhaust Noise Bill: What You Should Know

Everybody can calm down

Zach Martin
Jan 11, 2019

As of January 1, 2019, Bill 1824 in the state of California took effect as determined by former Governor Jerry Brown when he signed it back in June 2018. This bill primarily contained items pertaining to updating voting systems, and how the state compensates crime victims and veterans. However, the final item that was slipped in is one pertaining to noise generated by car exhaust.

The Legislative Counsel's Digest filed with the Secretary of State and approved by Governor Brown is as follows:

(4) Existing law provides that whenever any person is arrested for certain offenses, including, among other things, an infraction involving vehicle equipment, the arresting officer is required to permit the arrested person to execute a notice, prepared by the officer in triplicate, containing a promise to correct the violation and to deliver proof of correction to the issuing agency, unless the arresting officer finds that a disqualifying condition exists.

Existing law requires every motor vehicle subject to registration to be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise and prohibits a muffler or exhaust system from being equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device. Existing law further prohibits the modification of an exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner that will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle so that the vehicle exceeds existing noise limits.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Diamond Edition exhaust Photo 2/2   |   California's "New" Exhaust Noise Bill: What You Should Know

What does this mean? First of all, it's not a new law. In fact, this exhaust noise law has been in effect for years - albeit, loosely enforced. Essentially, if you are driving a vehicle that weighs less than 6,000 pounds and you have a modified exhaust, it must register less than 95 decibels as per the test procedure J1169 of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). What bill 1824 amends is how the police can enforce that law.

According to the SEMA Action Network, "A.B. 1824 amended how excess exhaust noise violations are handled by law enforcement. Beginning this year, a vehicle cited for violating the current exhaust noise law will no longer receive what is known as a 'fix-it' ticket. Instead, violations will result in an immediate fine."

Essentially, if you own a car that requires a smog certificate in order to register it (1976 and newer) and you have an exhaust that is loud enough to give law enforcement a reason to pull you over, you're getting fined. For now, this amendment won't have any effect on pre-smog-era cars (1975 and older). There is a silver lining though. If you were cited for an illegal exhaust and you believe you weren't in violation, there is a SEMA-sponsored noise-testing program with the Bureau of Automotive Repair that can potentially dismiss the citation by issuing a certificate of compliance. (Editor's Note: We're journalists, not lawyers, so the above info should not be viewed as legal advice.)

With the increased enforcement of this law in California, many people may have more encounters with the police. As enthusiasts, we love loud cars as much as the next person, however, if you get pulled over, please show respect to the officer conducting the traffic stop. Car enthusiasts are one giant community and if you show disrespect to law enforcement, it makes the rest of us look bad.

By Zach Martin
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