Last night I was hearing some car noises in the street next to my place in San Jose, California, and by the time I went out, things had calmed down. To my great surprise, this morning I read (mirror) that the bunch of bystanders next to my place earned a criminal record:

Over 40 citations, many for municipal code spectator violations. These events are illegal and we will continue the enforcement.

These municipal code spectator violations are a misdemeanor. Had I gone outside my apartment slightly earlier, I could have been struck with a misdemeanor.

I am therefore very concerned as to what I am legally disallowed to look at when in a public space, especially because I have a green card and I fear deportation or issues when renewing my green or getting the US citizenship, and also need to apply for visas that sometimes require a criminal background check.

Aside from looking at cars making noise, what else is illegal to watch on the streets or other public spaces in California, United States?

  • I think there's a misconception here. 10.64.020 paragraphs A and B rely on "with the intent to be present at such", and 10.64.030 indicates ways that might demonstrate that intent. If you had not intended to be present at an event, but had gone outside your apartment to see what was going on, the linked document suggests that successful prosecution would be unlikely. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:08
  • @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere thanks, yes I'd rather avoid lawyer fees, court and other legal activities that a bored bureaucrat may use to my detriment. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:11
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    I understand. But I don't think this is likely to go further than "I came outside to see what was going on" in conversation with a police officer. It looks like it's the intent to be present at an event that's unlawful. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:21
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    @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere got it, I just need to say ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:22
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    Sounds like a fine defence... Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:23

1 Answer 1


As a practical matter, if you learn that people are gathering around a street racing event, leave.

In all likelihood, you should do the same if you learn that people are gathering around a cockfighting event, a duel, a staged fight between people outside of a licensed boxing or fighting event, or any other illegal contest. Rather than worrying about the precise contours of these laws, avoiding this situations is the safest rule for your personal safety from other participants and from authorities.

  • Thanks, Is it illegal to watch the illegal contests you mentioned? Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 19:49
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    It is illegal to gather with people for the purpose of watching street racing. It may or may not be illegal to do the other things, but better safe than sorry. Those events are frequently busted and a variety of charges are often brought (e.g. failure to disperse at the order of a police officer) when they are broken up. Probably not a deportable offense, however.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 19:50
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    Is there a 'hall of fame' of answers? This answer should be put in it. It's concise, direct, to the point, and most of all is a good legal answer that doesn't lose sight of the big picture.
    – user36183
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 2:57

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