Do you know the legal definition of jaywalking? The public and police seem confused as to the definition, and of the term "crosswalk."
Judy DerGaradedian is looking at the intersection of 13th and J. "Obviously, you can get a ticket by crossing here," she says.
But, what about crossing two lanes of traffic where there is a corner, but no lights, no signals, and no painted crosswalks?
"Boy, I don't know," says DerGaradedian.
She's not alone.
Three officers I spoke with answered "Yes," "No," and "I'm not a jaywalking expert" when asked about the same situation Sacramento Police Officer Anthony Figueroa saw when he pulled over Nandi Cain for crossing Grand Avenue last month.
Cain had began to cross Grand as a car passed from the right. As it passed him, he continued across that lane as another car passed behind him.
"You're jaywalking. You were jaywalking back there," said the officer who pulled Cain over.
"I looked both ways," said Cain.
The department, elected officials and community members criticized the officer for the beating that soon followed.
But, was the stop justified?
The Sacramento Police Department, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, Cain's attorney and the Sacramento City Attorney's office all declined to offer an opinion.
The police department and the City Attorney's office did refer us to several California Vehicle Code sections regarding walk/don't walk signs, pedestrians on the roadway, right of way, and crossing between controlled intersections.
But, none of those laws are applicable in this case, according to McGeorge School of Law Professor John Sims.
He reads from the DMV handbook, "Always stop for pedestrian crossing at corners or other crosswalks, even if the crosswalk is in the middle of the block, at corners, with or without traffic signal lights, whether or not the crosswalks are marked with painted lines."
"So, in other words," he says, "the existence of the crosswalk doesn't have anything to do with whether there are painted lines on the street."
Sims also says he believes Officer Figueroa could have cited the driver of the car that passed behind Cain.
The Sacramento City Attorney's Office did say in an email, "Law Enforcement Officers may use their discretion to cite offenders."
Sims says the laws are specific enough to take discretion out of the equation --for the most part-- but, especially in Cain’s case.
State law says rules may differ by community.
"If you're out in the country somewhere, in a very sparsely-populated area and the distances are so long that there are no corners, then you're even allowed to cross in the middle," Sims says. "But, on a typical urban block, where you wouldn't have spaces of 300 feet where you have no other place to cross, you're expected to go to the corner to cross."
Sacramento City Code says, "...no pedestrian may cross a through street within 300 feet of a crosswalk other than within such crosswalk, except at a location where a school bus is stopped and is displaying flashing red lights."
According to Google maps, Rio Linda Boulevard and Dry Creek Road are 318 feet and .4 miles respectively from the intersection of Cypress and Grand.
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