New Laws that Took Effect in January 2016

Californians face new restrictions on carrying guns, new regulations on medical marijuana, and higher pay if they earn minimum wage under laws that take effect in 2016. Parents, students, healthcare providers and anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car will see changes, some immediately, some over the year. Many of the 807 bills signed into law touch on broad aspects of California residents’ everyday lives or address major issues like voter participation, and life and death.  

Animals & environment:

Bans the sale of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. – The state may impose steep civil fines against marijuana farms that damage the environment by dumping wastewater and chemicals, removing trees and killing wild animals. • The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has new power to take action to conserve monarch butterflies and their habitats. • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control will receive new powers to ensure the recovery of cleanup costs involving polluting factories and allow the agency to require hazardous-waste managers to document that they can pay for or perform a cleanup if one is necessary. • State will provide $100 million annually in financial incentives for the installation of solar panels at apartment buildings for low-income residents. • Makes regulatory changes requiring utilities to work toward meeting a target of having 50% of the energy used in the state come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by the end of 2030. Also makes changes to help the state double the energy efficiency savings by that year.

Crime & punishment:

Law enforcement agencies must obtain a search warrant before looking at private emails, text messages and GPS data stored in smartphones, laptops and the cloud. – Recording piracy and insurance fraud are added to the list of crimes for which an offender’s assets can be seized by law enforcement officials. – Police officers or family members may seek a restraining order that bars a person deemed dangerous from possessing firearms for 21 days. – Prosecutors are allowed to seek forfeiture of the images and storage devices used in “revenge porn” cases, in which an estranged romantic partner posts nude or sexual pictures of the other person online. – Law enforcement agencies must certify in writing when immigrants in the country illegally are helpful as witnesses in criminal investigations so that those involved can apply for a “U-visa” that prevents deportation of crime victims. Ten-thousand U-visas are issued nationwide each year. – Law enforcement agencies must by 2018 develop systems that would allow them to collect and report data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and the outcome. – Police agencies must issue detailed annual reports on all cases in which officers use force that result in serious injury or death. – Law enforcement departments whose officers wear cameras will have to follow rules on storing and using the video so it is not mishandled. – State can collect DNA samples from suspected criminals, but no longer do so from those held for non-serious felonies, nonviolent drug crimes. – Courts may impose additional penalties in drug cases in which homes are within 200 feet of a methamphetamine lab and 300 feet of concentrated cannabis manufacturing. – The state will provide former prison inmates with new housing programs, mental health services and substance abuse treatment. – State will increase compensation for innocent people who are wrongly convicted from $100 for each day behind bars to $140, to reflect inflation. – Jail inmates serving time on felony convictions have right to seek compassionate release for medical conditions, postpone prosecution for driving offenses and once out of jail, petition for certificates of rehabilitation or pardon. – Children 13 and younger who are witnesses in violent crimes may testify by remote video hook-up. – Statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by victims of human rights abuses in state extended from 5 to 10 years.  


A new automated system for registering eligible people to vote when they go to the DMV to get their driver’s license, though the process won’t begin until a new statewide voter database is up and running, which is expected after the June primaries. – Local gov’t can set up installment plans for people to partially pay parking tickets if they can’t pay all at once. – Limousines must have windows that can be pushed out in an emergency. – The statute of limitations for filing vehicular manslaughter charges in cases of hit-and-run accidents that result in death are extended, allowing charges to be filed within a year of a motorist being identified as being involved in an accident. – CHP is allowed to issue Yellow Alerts on electronic freeway signs to seek the public’s help in finding motorists involved in hit-and-run accidents. – CHP can use electronic freeway signs for “Silver Alerts” for missing persons 65+ who are developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired. – Allows electrically motorized boards to be ridden where bicycles are ridden, within bicycle lanes, pathways and roadways.  

Gun Control

  • Pellet, BB and Airsoft Guns (Senate Bill 199): Those guns will not be allowed to be displayed in public unless they are pink, red or other bright colors so they are not mistaken for the real thing. Advocates said it would help law enforcement avoid tragic mistakes like the case in which a Santa Rosa boy was killed by Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies.
  • Gun Violence Restraining Orders (Assembly Bill 1014): It will allow family members who believe a loved one is a danger to himself/herself or others to seek a “temporary gun violence restraining order.” The legislation will give police the authority to seize that person’s legally owned weapons for 21 days without his or her prior knowledge.
  • The law was enacted in response to the 2014 Isla Vista mass shootings that left six people dead and 14 others wounded. Before the rampage, gunman Elliot Rodger’s parents raised concerns about their son’s mental health. Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies said that despite the parents’ warnings, they had no legal authority to search Rodger’s apartment.
  • No Concealed Firearms in Schools (Senate Bill 707): It bans gun owners from carrying concealed handguns at K-12 schools and colleges.
  • It is already illegal to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school or on a college campus without permission from administrators, but it exempts those with concealed carry permits.

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