Thanks to a new SEMA-sponsored law, California automobile hobbyists are now better equipped to fight unfair exhaust noise citations issued by state law enforcement officers. Legislation recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis to provide for a statewide exhaust noise testing program will allow motorists to prove they comply with state noise standards.
The new law requires smog check stations that provide referee functions to perform the test. These referee stations will issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95-decibels, under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169. Only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation will be permitted to submit their vehicle for the test.
The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Fees charged to motorists for the certificates of compliance will pay for the testing program.
“The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test. Through this procedure, motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that they comply with California’s exhaust noise standards,” said SEMA Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. “For years, the enforcement policy used by police officers deemed nearly all exhaust system modifications illegal, even where the noise levels were not excessive or unusual. That policy left exhaust system manufacturers, dealers and their customers without recourse.”
Last year, Governor Davis signed into law another SEMA-sponsored bill to compel law enforcement officials to tie exhaust system noise citations to the 95-decibel limit and to make clear that aftermarket modified exhaust systems are legal if they comply with the standard. However, exhaust noise citations were still primarily prosecuted solely based on the officer's subjective judgment. The new law should go far toward improving motorists’ odds of beating the ticket in court.
“Motorists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance prefer aftermarket exhaust systems,” McDonald added. “By establishing this evenhanded testing process, this law will serve to benefit consumers who favor these state-of-the-art products, the aftermarket industry which markets them and even police officers who are charged with enforcing the law.”