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New California Law for Exhaust Noise Violations—Fact vs. Fiction | Presented by Nitto Tire

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Zoomie headers on a ProCharger-blown Hemi would definitely NOT be street legal and falls outside of the 95-decibel limit that became California law in 2003.

On January 1, 2019 a new law went into effect for the state of California known as California Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1824. Former Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law back in June 2018. The internet has been ablaze with a lot of misconceptions of what the law actually changes and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) posted a release to help enthusiasts understand what has happened.

First and foremost, the noise level maximum has NOT changed, it continues to be 95-decibels (SAE standards), which has been the law on the books since 2003. So any vehicle louder than 95-decibels last year or today was never in compliance with California law. So what did change? According to the A.B. 1824 and the SAN press release, it is the violation fine and process that has changed under the new law.

It is still 100% LEGAL to change the exhaust system of your vehicle provided the new system meets the 95-decibel limit under the SAE J1169 testing standard.

According to SEMA, here are the changes—”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.”

The press release went on to describe what happens when you get the fine—”According to the Judicial Council of California’s Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules for 2019, the suggested base fine/fee for a first conviction is $25 with a total fee of $193.”

Additionally, SEMA provides guidance to help enthusiasts resolve their issues. “Consumers in receipt of a violation still have the option of seeking a certificate of compliance from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) demonstrating that their exhaust emits no more than 95-decibels. This SEMA-sponsored program allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. BAR does not currently issue preemptive certificates of compliance.”

For those who would like to read more on the topic, here are some links for more information on the law, the new violation consequences, and a SEMA Fact vs. Fiction document referenced in this article.

2003 California 95-decibel Exhaust Noise Limit

BAR Certificate of Compliance

SEMA Fact vs. Fiction


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Mike Galimi
Mike Galimi is the Director of Content & Marketing at ProMedia Publishing and Events with nearly 20 years of experience in motorsport writing and photography.
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