California’s New Exhaust Noise Law – Fact & Fiction

In February 2019, some California drivers experienced the unpleasant reality of receiving a traffic citation (fined) for having an exhaust system that was “too loud”.  Amidst the controversy and rumor mill on the new law that took effect… the Special Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has taken action to mitigate some of the public concerns.

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A SEMA news release, stated that  the law concerning exhaust noise louder than 95 decibels was actually enacted in May of 1998…20 years ago.

Beginning January 1, 2019, a motorist cited for violating the current California exhaust noise law can receive an immediate fine. Previously, motorists received what is known as a “fix-it” ticket, which allowed for 30 days to correct the violation. ~ SEMA

What changed recently was the passage of California Assembly Bill 1824. The bill, signed into law last year by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, requires police officers issue an immediate fine for a violation instead of a 30-day notice to correct the issue.  SEMA further clarified  that the base fine for a first-time conviction is much lower than commonly believed: $25 with a total fee of $193.

Christian Robinson, SEMA’s political action committee, said motorists have the right to fight the fine in court if they can prove the exhaust is under the 95-decibel mark.

“You still have due process under the law in California to demonstrate you’re in compliance with the law using an objective test,” Christian Robinson – SEMA

Motorists accused of violating the noise law can get a certificate of compliance from the SEMA-sponsored California Bureau of Automotive Repair that shows the exhaust is not louder than 95 decibels and use it to fight the fine in court. The exhaust test costs $108.

Bottom line…

“The sale and installation of an aftermarket exhaust system remains legal in California so long as it does not exceed a sound level of 95 decibels,” SEMA said in the release.


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