The Washington Post

Shark fins, tasters and tattoos: New laws on crime and courts

State legislatures passed more than 40,000 new laws in 2013, the bulk of which go into effect Jan. 1. We’ll spend this week taking a look at some of the new laws hitting the books this week, courtesy of an annual list published by our friends at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Here’s a rundown of new laws on crime, punishment and the judicial process set to take effect next week:

— In Delaware, legislators unanimously passed House Bill 41, which forbids the sale or distribution of shark fins. Shark finning — the act of catching a shark, lopping off its fins and throwing the carcass back in the water — is already prohibited by federal and state law. The new law will ban possession of shark fins harvested elsewhere.

— Illinois law enforcement officials will be required to take additional classes in the use of stun guns. Police will be trained in the psychological and physiological effects stun guns can have on humans under House Bill 131, which passed earlier this year.

— Californians convicted of crimes when they were teenagers will have the opportunity for their cases to be reheard, and their sentences either revised or cut short, by a special parole-review panel. Only inmates convicted as teenagers who have served at least 15 years in prison — meaning, back in the late 1990s, when drug laws were much more severe than they are now — will be eligible.

— Connecticut residents will be required to register all assault weapons and large-capacity magazines purchased before April 2013, the final piece of post-Newtown gun legislation set to take effect. Connecticut will also create a statewide registry of parolees who used weapons in committing their crimes.

— Illinois is cracking down on drones. One new law prohibits anyone from using a drone to interfere with hunters and fishermen (To warn Bambi?), while another law taking effect next week prohibits law enforcement officers from using drones to gather information without a warrant.

— But don’t try to get fancy with social media. Starting next week, the penalty for inciting a violent flash mob or riot via Facebook or Twitter goes way up (They don’t actually use the words “flash mob”; apparently the legislative language of choice is “attempted mob action”).

— Perhaps most notable: Anyone in Colorado over age 21 will be able to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at state-licensed retail outlets. Expect that one to be on the evening news. In other weed-related legislation, both Oregon and Illinois will begin selling medical marijuana at state-run or -licensed dispensaries.

— But if you commit a crime, you won’t have to be haunted by it forever. In response to an October New York Times article, it will be illegal in Illinois for Web sites to charge money to remove mug shots or personal information from their sites. In Oregon, anyone photographed in a mug shot will be able to have that information removed if they provide documentation of acquittal or of the charges being dropped.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.



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Niraj Chokshi · December 23, 2013

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