Ten New Laws for 2012 to Consider for Criminal Consequences

It is January 1, 2012 and a host of new laws become effective today.  While some of these laws may not affect you, others may, so it good to be aware of how the laws have changed.

There are dozens of new laws, but our focus in this article in limited to ten that involve possible criminal cases.

1.    Testimony by a jailhouse informant is no longer enough to convict a suspect.  Supposed jailhouse confessions have long been suspicious to us, as the informant may have significant credibility issues, ulterior motives and always seemed inherently untrustworthy to us.  This is a good new law.
 
2.    Juror texting, tweeting or research using smartphones.  There will now be a new jury instruction admonishing jurors not to text, tweet or research cases at all.  The jury will be told to only consider the facts presented to them and the law told to them in court without doing their own research or communicating outside the jury room.
 
3.    Unpaid traffic ticket amnesty.  Folks who have traffic tickets with fines that were due by January 1, 2009, will be allowed to pay just half the fine if they do so before June 30, 2012.

4.    Booster seats.  It is now the law that all children under eight or four feet, nine inches tall must be buckled into a booster seat.  Previously, the law was that every kid had to use such a seat until age six or reached sixty pounds.  It merits mention that as a parent of three kids around these ages and weights, I think this is a good law.  Booster seats allow the seatbelt to better fit to the child.

5.    Carrying an unloaded firearm in public.  If one is caught carrying an unloaded handgun in a public place, a $1,000 fine or a year in prison is possible.  The law does not apply to rifles, curiously, so it is likely gun-rights activists may protest this new law by carrying their rifles in public in a very visible manner.

6.    Dextromethorphan sales to minors.  Certain cold medications that contain dextromethorphan, if taken in high doses, can cause liver failure, hallucinations, loss of motor control and even seizures.  For decades, kids have taken such over-the-counter medications to have an “out of body” experience.  Now, store clerks are required to check ID’s of those who attempt to buy certain medications containing dextromethorphan.  California is the first law to impose such a requirement.

7.    Caffeinated beer banned.  California has become the seventh state to ban such products.  Usually, such products come in 24 ounce and even 32 ounce cans and were popular with college age kids.  There have been a few heavily reported incidents where college kids drank too much of such drinks and were hospitalized.

8.    Tanning beds.  It is illegal for anyone younger than eighteen to use a tanning bed.  Prior to today, anyone between the ages of fifteen and seventeen could use a tanning bed with their parent’s permission, while there was an absolute ban on any tanning bed use by one fourteen and under.  Now that ban extends to anyone under the age of eighteen.

9.    Police now cannot impound a vehicle at a DUI checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is being an unlicensed driver.  This may eliminate what our office has suspected for some time – that certain police departments have used DUI checkpoints as a net to impound vehicles for almost any offense.

10.    Employers cannot use credit reports when considering applicants for most jobs.  Certain exceptions still apply to use such reports, i.e. employers searching for managers, financial jobs, law enforcement.

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