New laws include alterations in legal system

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

Beginning Monday, certain criminal records can be sealed by the court so that they don’t turn up in background checks done by potential employers.

This is one of several changes in the state’s criminal code that go into effect July 1, along with about 300 other new rules. While many of the new laws apply only to specific agencies and professions, some will catch the eye of the general public.

The biggest changes are in the legal system.

Changes in the criminal code are geared to help people who have paid for their crimes and haven’t gotten in trouble since to get a fair chance at living a productive life, state legislators said during the past General Assembly session, during which the new rules were approved.

That is the goal with the new expunging law. The records that could be sealed are for certain kinds of nonviolent crimes, like drunken driving. Violent crimes, like murder, would not qualify. The offender must have kept his record clean since the crime and must petition the court to seal the record. Law enforcement still will be able to see a person’s entire criminal background.

Another change will require the courts to seal the arrest records of a person who was arrested but not prosecuted or whose conviction was overturned by appeal. The state’s classification system for crimes also is changing to make more levels of crimes and, thus, more alternatives for sentencing in those classes.

Other new laws include:

”¢ Beginning Monday, a pharmacy cannot sell more than 61.2 grams of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are ingredients used to make methamphetamine, to a person within a year. Also, pharmacies will be required to use the state’s tracking system to sell the drugs.

Ӣ The State Department of Education will have to develop guidelines to assist school corporations in establishing bullying prevention programs and rules for investigating, reporting and disciplining as it pertains to bullying. Also, school districts will have to include in their annual performance reports the number of bullying incidents.

Ӣ A person who uses his professional relationship with a child to have sex with the child is committing child seduction, a class C felony.

Ӣ A redevelopment commission can create a program for age-restricted housing.

”¢ A municipality, county or township that has a website that lists names and addresses of property owners can allow police, a judge or a domestic abuse victim in the attorney general’s confidentiality program to restrict a victim’s address from public view.

Ӣ A public sewer utility or regional sewer district may require connection to its disposal system if there is a sewer line within 300 feet of a subdivision or of a property line that is in the city or adjacent to a body of water.

Ӣ The minimum fine for illegally parking in a handicapped parking space is doubling to $100.

”¢ A person who injures a law enforcement animal to the point of killing or permanently disabling the animal must pay restitution to the animal’s owner for replacing the animal.

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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