Sonoma County latest to make it illegal to watch a sideshow

Sonoma County is now the latest Bay Area county to make it illegal to watch a sideshow. 

Under a new ordinance approved this week, drivers, passengers and spectators of sideshows, can face jail time. 

The city of Petaluma already has a sideshow ordinance like this on the books. So does Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. 

Now, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has asked county leaders to make it a countywide ordinance so that the illegal sideshow activity doesn't spill over into unincorporated parts of the county.

The board of supervisors did just that.

In a unanimous vote this week, they approved this sideshow ordinance.

It goes into effect next month.

Under the new law, anyone determined to be participating, organizing or even watching a sideshow or any reckless or dangerous driving as a spectator could face a $1,000 fine, and up to six months in jail, if convicted.

Sonoma County's sheriff said the cities that have already have a sideshow ordinance have seen improvement.

"The number of sideshows has dropped over the past year," Sheriff Eddie Engram told the supervisors. "The word is getting out."

Alameda County passed a very similar ordinance earlier this year.

The cities of Oakland, Pittsburg and San Jose also have this type of ordinance on the books.

There are concerns about its constitutionality, though, when it comes to punishing spectators. 

There are concerns that people driving by, living nearby or even someone in a car that is trapped behind a sideshow could be wrongly accused.

Sonoma County supervisors didn't raise any concerns or questions about that before their vote. 

They said only that their constituents are worried about sideshows, and they're glad to do something about it.