In this Week in Review, the House Republican Caucus takes a look at news you can use – these are summaries of some of the major new laws scheduled to take full effect on January 1, 2013 with the coming of the New Year.
In many cases, laws passed in the spring and summer of 2012, if they affect the work of the police, prosecutors, and the courts, were written so as to not take effect until the next January 1. This “delayed effective date” gave law enforcement leaders the chance to train their professionals and peace officers on how to best enforce the new laws. This was especially significant for criminal laws that will protect children, and traffic laws that will protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Your State Representative’s office can often be a valuable source of information about the “ins and outs” of the new laws that are taking effect in Illinois in this New Year. In addition to the new laws described here, many other new laws are scheduled to take effect.
Your Illinois Week in Review wishes you a safe and happy New Year!
- Caylee’s Law becomes effective, increasing the penalties for failure to report the disappearance or death of a child age 13 years or younger. The new law, named in honor of the tragic victim of a child homicide in central Florida, is one of many such laws passed by states like Illinois throughout the country. The Illinois Caylee’s law also expands the definition of obstruction of justice to cover the parents, guardians, and caretakers of a child younger than 13 if the child disappears and the parent or parental figure provides false information to police or other law enforcement professionals.
- “Child luring” expanded to toughen penalties for luring a child traveling to or from school. The definition of this conduct has been changed to cover a widened range of circumstances when the child is traveling to or from school and ensure that the conduct may now be charged as a felony. For the first time, the offense may also be charged if the victim had just celebrated her or his 16th birthday. Starting on January 1, 2013, the maximum age of the victim is increased by one year from “younger than 16” to “younger than 17.” Persons convicted of child luring will now be considered sexual predators immediately upon conviction (previously, two or more convictions for child luring were required to trigger this classification).
- Further increases will be enforced upon the no-go zones imposed upon registered child sex offenders. Persons found guilty or adjudicated of a child sex offense are required, upon release from prison or leaving the courtroom of adjudication, to go to local law enforcement and register as a sex offender. Registered sex offenders are now forbidden from taking part in holiday activities involving children, of which the best-know is handing out candy at Halloween. Sex offenders (who were already forbidden to approach public parks where children might be present) will now be banned, under a new 2013 law, from bikeways and public trails.
- Probation officers must be told of orders of protection. In addition to criminal laws aimed at increasing child safety, the General Assembly took action effective January 1, 2013 to require the 102 Illinois county sheriffs to share information with the Department of Corrections (IDOC) whenever a person who has been assigned to IDOC custody – typically, a person who is on probation – has had an order of protection, a civil no-contact order, or a stalking no-contact order entered against them. Before 2013, IDOC guards and probation officers were often not told of these orders and did not take them into account in making labor-intensive supervisory decisions.
- New supplement to State motor vehicle license fee will raise stream of money for State park personnel and infrastructure. With the Downstate jobs picture shadowed in recent years by extensive layoffs and retirements at the Department of Natural Resources, the State agency with operational responsibility over State parks, natural areas, and fish and wildlife areas, the appearance of up to $22 million per year in new money was a desperately needed lifeline for the places often called the “lungs of Illinois.” Illinois residents who drive to visit their State parks will pay for their upkeep through a small supplement, $2 per year, to be added to their annual license-plate sticker fee. The increase will raise the cost of annual motor vehicle re-registration from $99 per year to $101 per year.
- New “strip club tax” may raise money for sexual assault crisis services. Faced with a shortage of State aid and reimbursement monies, many private-sector entities that provide rape crisis center services, and also provide other counseling and shelter bed space for victims of gender abuse/gender battery, have been forced to reduce their service level or close their doors. The new “strip club tax” will be used as the basis for increasing the admission fees at places of live adult entertainment. For many strip clubs, the fee will be $3 for each additional customer visit; other clubs will pay a sliding-scale tax of up to $25,000 per establishment. The fee is expected to raise up to $1 million annually in State aid for rape crisis centers and other providers of help for victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and other forms of gender abuse and gender battery.
- “Julie’s Law” sharply increases penalties for extreme speeding violations. Grieving suburban parents Rich and Pam Gorczynski crusaded for he General Assembly to enact new legislation, effective January 1, 2013, to impose controls on the granting of court supervision in adjudications for speeding. Until 2013, the court could grant court supervision to repeat and extreme speeding violators. One beneficiary of this practice, repeat violator Lukasz Marszalek, went on to kill young Jullie Gorczynski by driving at least 76 mph in a 40 mph speed zone. The press accused Marszalek of “homicide by car,” but the at-fault driver’s repeated court supervisions had cleaned his record and made it impossible to take the keys away before he drove again. Under “Julie’s Law,” named in the late high school graduate’s honor, the court will no longer be allowed to grant repeat court supervisions to drivers who have committed offenses on this level.
- If you are in a property-only accident, and the car is driveable: Yes, you can move your car off a dangerous road shoulder. Until 2013, the law said your car had to stay where it was until the police had completed their investigative work – even if no injuries had occurred, the car was drivable, and the car was parked on a dangerous highway shoulder awaiting the arrival of law enforcement. A new law enacted in 2012 allows people involved in a traffic accident on a busy highway, including a limited-access superhighway, to move their vehicles to the nearest off-ramp, access road or other safe location. The movement is only allowed if the accident to be investigated did not include injuries to any driver or passengers. This movement helps not only the drivers and passengers involved in the accident, but also helps the safety of the police by enabling the accident to be dealt with in a safer environment.
- For trucks and other commercial motor vehicle operations, the cell phone ban is expanded to cover all times that the commercial vehicle is in motion. The General Assembly put driving safety first in 2012 by enacting new legislation aimed at prohibiting licensed commercial motor vehicle operators, including heavy truck drivers, from texting or using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. While the State and federal governments impose heavy record-keeping burdens upon truck drivers, and shippers are constantly looking for information, the safety demands of operating a multi-ton commercial vehicle come first in Illinois.
- For cars, the cell phone ban is expanded to cover all work zones. Some highway work zones don’t have special lowered speed limits posted on them, and until 2013 it was still legal to use a cell phone while driving in them. This endangered highway workers in the un-posted work zones, as well as confused many drivers. A new law enacted in 2012 expands the cellphone prohibition to cover all roadway work zones – whether or not a special speed limit is posted. It will also be illegal to use a mobile phone when driving within 500 feet of any emergency scene.