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New laws greet the new year
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During the 2010 California State legislative session, 733 new laws were enacted that will take effect in 2011. The vast majority are laws that few people of California's population will even know they are "on the books," because they address very specialized issues and other matters that never touch the lives of "average" Californians. Examples of these include a law that establishes an "umbilical cord blood collection program," laws that pertain to "horse racing," and"firefighter license plates," to name a few.

But there are some that will affect, or at least be of interest to this state's larger population. The first is that possession of marijuana of up to one ounce is an infraction, the same as, for example, running a stop sign. There would be no arrest per se, no criminal record and only a fine. This new law, however, remains in conflict with federal law, which still classifies marijuana possession of any amount as a crime. The feds probably will not change their personal possession marijuana enforcement policy, which, at this time, calls for a "hands-off" approach. Another law that is of interest to law enforcement is that the Amber Alert system can now be used to notify the public when an officer is attacked and the suspect is at large.

A larger impact law that has been passed is one that makes it a misdemeanor for parents to allow their children to miss too much school, with a potential $2,000 fine and jail time. This is an interesting law that I will need to study more, but it appears to have been passed with good reason as school truancy and the high school drop out rate is extremely high in our region. But I am concerned that it fails to account for the reasons kids are not attending school. Treating these things symptomatically rarely solves the real problem, and in my view, school attendance issues typically have underlying causes such as a student's inability to learn, be a result of family problems, whether they be financial or other in nature, the lure of gangs may be involved, drug abuse may be a causative factor and, in some cases, it may simply be a matter of poor parenting. It is a complicated issue, and I see the wisdom in addressing it. It may be a good start for our society to really start to tackle the problem.

Another law that is relevant but will likely be an enforcement challenge is that it is now unlawful to impersonate someone else through phony social networking accounts, emails or texting. Doing so can lead to a $1,000 fine.

A law that will take effect Feb. 1, 2011, requires dealers of firearms and ammunition to obtain fingerprints from buyers obtaining ammunition that can be fired in a handgun. The information must be retained by the vendor for five years from the date of the transaction. A violation is a misdemeanor. This requirement will affect many different kinds and calibers of ammunition since much of it can be fired in either a rifle or handgun. Certain peace officers are exempted from this provision when purchasing handgun ammunition.

Along with these new requirements affecting handgun ammunition purchases, "the delivery or transfer of handgun ammunition must occur in a face-to-face transaction, with the recipient providing bona fide evidence of his or her identity and age, subject to specified exceptions. Non-face-to-face transfers, such as internet transactions and mail order deliveries are prohibited."

These new firearms-related laws are mostly quite unwelcome by law-abiding citizens who see them as an other imposition, doing little to curb violence by persons who use firearms in the commission of crimes. To them, the law creates more bureacracy, appears to create an inconvenience to those who have not and will do no harm, and it may be seen as another step towards a goal of disarming the citizens. I cannot blame them for feeling that way.

If you wish to look at all 733 laws, you can access the information on the Internet at You may be surprised by the range of different laws and how some of them will affect you now and in the time to come.