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New year ushers in new state laws that run the gamut

POSTED January 22, 2013 5:07 p.m.
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Every year, our state Legislature creates hundreds of new laws, most of which affect only small segments of the population, counties, cities, and the state budget. Some examples are special-interest groups, corporations, and specific industries. Among the state Legislature's favorites are new regulations that affect everything from pollution control to labor laws and new taxes. It does seem that as the state's population grows, along with it are the number of new laws, rules and regulations.

Of particular interest to the general public are changes in traffic laws. One that is certain to generate frustration is the new law known as the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, which gives law enforcement officials the ability to cite noise pollution violations under the California Vehicle Code. This law goes into effect for motorcycles and aftermarket parts from the 2013 model year and beyond. Technically, there has already been a law on the books for decades that prohibits the modification of exhaust systems on both cars and motorcycles to the extent that such modification creates more noise than the original factory exhaust system. Over the years, however, modified exhaust systems, especially for motorcycles, have become so common that law enforcement rarely issued citations for the violation. I suspect there are tens of thousands of motorcycles in California with modified exhaust systems now. The new law that clearly prohibits those modifications on 2013 and newer motorcycles will surely garner much dislike from the motorcycle owners' community.

Another interesting law change is that motorists suspected of driving under the influence can no longer opt for a urine test. This aspect of the law is a bit complicated because when a motorist is suspected of being under the influence of drugs, the test types may differ and the motorist may not have a choice in the matter.

Voice activated texting is now legal. Using voice commands on smart phones or similar devices has been legal in any event, so this new allowance for texting via a voice-activated mechanism is really nothing new. At the same time, the state is allowing "driverless cars" on public roadways, as long as there is a licensed driver in the vehicle able to take over in case the driverless system fails.

Now with law enforcement making wide use of license plate readers, the state has made it unlawful to deface or otherwise do things to a license plate to make it impossible for the readers to function properly. You would be surprised to know how widely-used license plate readers are. They exist on law enforcement vehicles as well as along highways and other fixed locations. These license plate reader systems can match license plates to wanted persons and stolen vehicles.

There are many other new laws, too many to list here. If you want to read the comprehensive list of new California laws for 2013 (I believe there are in excess of 850), go to http://leginfo.ca.gov/.
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