SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California youth who are 18 years old or younger might soon avoid criminal charges when they skip out on their public transit fare.
They will not get away scot-free if they are caught, according to a new bill sitting on the governor’s desk.
Sacramento’s Regional Transit system relies on an honor system, and it becomes an inviting environment for fare evaders.
Sacramento Police Captain Norm Leong says fare evasion is “anywhere between five to ten-percent on average and we get about 50,000 riders a day, so that translates to a significant amount.”
The focus now is on fare evaders that are 18 and under.
The bill claims to decriminalize young fare evaders and only give them a ticket instead of charging them with a misdemeanor.
Elijah Gray, 15, says he relies on public transportation every day to get around.
“I’m consistently catching buses and stuff but if I had to catch a light rail once I would probably hop on it and go to my one stop and then hop off.”
According to Senator Rob Hertzberg who authored the bill, Elijah could face criminal charges under current state law.
With the proposed bill, he would only receive a ticket.
On Wednesday, CBS13 asked whether Sacramento County sends fare evaders to jail and found the county does not — other counties around the state do, however.
”In Los Angeles County, we see that saves millions of dollars from sheriff’s having to arrest kids”, said Senator Hertzberg.
Los Angeles County implemented a law similar to this proposed bill in 2012.
CBS13 looked at other large cities around the country to see how they handle fare evaders:
In Denver, security officers and fare inspectors photograph people who are cited or warned for not having a ticket to track repeat offenders;
In Boston, train conductors are in charge of catching fare evaders;
And in San Diego, undercover transit officers help uniformed agents to bust fare cheats.
In Sacramento, more than two-dozen fare-checkers hired by Regional Transit this summer help keep riders in compliance.
Some riders have no plan to ever pay for public transit, no matter what the law states.
“I really don’t pay cause it’s only like one stop so I would rather not pay $3 just to go to one place that’s right up the block.”
Anyone caught riding RT without a ticket will face a $153 fine.
If the governor signs the bill into law, youth 18 and under will be fined $250 for the first two offenses, and $400 every time after that.
Also with the proposed bill, RT would have to create its own system to handle youth evaders and process the fines.