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2012's New Laws: What's Legal in the New Year

More than 200 new state laws go into effect on Jan. 1. We spotlight the substantial ones and point you to some of the more unusual pieces of legislation.

We received an early Christmas present from State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and the General Assembly.

Radogno's office sent a press release Dec. 19 detailing the new laws that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. While most people were busy spending time with their relatives over the holidays, we were going through the 214 laws, figuring out what lifestyle changes we were going to need to make.

We've highlighted the most signficant—and in some cases, most interesting—of these new laws, so you don't have to spend the beginning of the new year wondering why you're chilling your heels in the local pokey.

The Big Ones

Seat Belts for the Back Seat: Adults riding in the back seat of a vehicle must wear a seat belt. Offenders could face a $25 fine.

"Andrea’s Law": This law creates a first-degree murderer database, similar to a sex offenders registry, that would require those convicted of first-degree murder to register after being released from prison. It's named after Andrea Wills, an Eastern Illinois University student who was killed by her boyfriend in 1998.

Red-Light Cameras: Images of violators caught by the camera must be able to be viewed online, and the municipality or county operating the cameras must post their locations on their official website.

Underage "Sexting": Instead of charging minors with felony child pornography for "sexting," prosecutors can go through the juvenile courts to see if counseling or community service are needed.

Drugs

Synthetic Pot: Bans the mix of herbs and chemicals. .

Drug-Dealer Fines: Fines individuals convicted of manufacturing or delivering drugs that also cause an incident requiring emergency response personnel, such as paramedics, and makes the offenders liable for the expenses of the emergency response.

Sex Crimes

Human Trafficking: Lets human trafficking victims request past convictions for misdemeanor and first-time felony prostitution charges be vacated.

Sex Offenders and Colleges: Sex offenders employed at or attending a college must register with the campus’s public safety or security director.

Kids and Pets

Students and Online Threats: Students making threats on a website against another student or school employee can be suspended or expelled by the school board.

Remedial Summer School: Students performing two or more grades below his or her level for two consecutive years must attend remedial summer school.

Pet ID: Along with scanning for microchips, animal control facilities must look for other forms of ID, such as tags or tattoos. Workers must scan an animal twice for a microchip before euthanizing the animal.

Motor Vehicles

Motorcycles and Red Lights: Motorcyclists can go through a red light if it doesn't change to green in a reasonable time.

Trailer Riding Ban: Unless it's an emergency, this restricts people from riding in a trailer, semitrailer, farm wagon or any other vehicle while it is being towed on a public highway.

Military

Purple Heart Day: Designates Aug. 7 each year as Purple Heart Day. The day honors military personnel who have been wounded or killed in battle and honored with the Purple Heart. 

No Utility Disconnect: Covers military personnel and veterans under the no-utility disconnection law during the winter.

Other Laws of Note

Torture Penalties: A charge of aggravated battery becomes a Class 1 felony when it involves the infliction of torture or extreme physical pain on the victim.

ID Cards and Religious Objections: State identification cards can be issued without photos if the applicant has a religious objection.

Open Meetings Act Exception: Public bodies can hold closed meetings with auditors or financial committees if the meeting is to look in to potential fraud.

Shouldn't This Already Be a Law?

Sometimes, conventional wisdom can be ahead of actual legislation. That must be the reason why we thought the following laws already would be on the books by now.

Debt Collection: Employers can garnish wages without an employee’s consent in order to collect a debt owed to a municipality.

Rental Car Traffic Citations: Rental car companies can give the name of a car's previous renter to the Secretary of State so that the renter can be ticketed if she or he is caught on an automated camera breaking a traffic law.

Laser Airplane Law: Outlaws firing a laser into the cockpit of an airplane taking off, landing or in the air.

Weapons Possession: If a felon or paroled inmate is caught in the unlawful use or possession of a weapon, he or she faces mandatory prison time.

Laws That Make You Go, 'WTH?'

Some laws, however, really make it hard for you not to wonder what legislators are thinking. Here are the two ordinances that caught our attention:

Hunting for the Terminally Ill

What it does: Hunting fees are waived for terminally ill patients. Also, terminally ill minors can hunt out of season if approved by the director of the Department of Natural Resources. 
Why it's perplexing: This firmly establishes that the sense of irony is dead in the Statehouse. But hey, if someone about to die wants to take a few of God's creatures with him or her, who are we to say they should have to pay for the privilege?

Legal Word Corrections

What the law does: Changes language in state laws to replace “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” and "crippled" with “physically disabled.”
Why it's perplexing: It's not because we think the law is too P.C. (although we're pretty devoted Mac users. Word play!). It's because we're astonished that the state still uses the word "crippled" for people with disabilities. At least the law doesn't ask it to be changed to "gimpy."

Now, it's your turn: Which of those laws scares you the most? Take our poll and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Russ January 06, 2012 at 05:16 AM
scouter,see Jerry's comments fro 12/30 above.
Missy Merman December 20, 2012 at 08:12 AM
@Russ: If what you're saying is that you're an avid *bicycle* rider (as in not a motorcycle, but an actual bike that you use your feet to pedal with) and you actually obey traffic laws while on your bike, then I would honestly like to thank you. I cannot tell you how frustrated I get when stopping at red lights, stop signs, etc., only to have a bike blow right by me. It never ceases to amaze me, and yet *nothing* is done about it. If our city is hurting so badly for money, I could most definitely recommend a few intersections where police could write tickets all. day. long. to the cyclists who don't seem to even *almost* pay attention to the traffic around them. So truly, without sarcasm, thank you. It's reassuring to know that there are at least some responsible cyclists in our city. Good for you!
Missy Merman December 20, 2012 at 08:22 AM
@Mandy: Suppose an adult is sitting in the back seat of a car, unbuckled. The car is hit from behind and the unbuckled adult is ejected from the car, ultimately killing them. Had they been buckled, the likelihood that they would have been ejected from the car is extremely low. The accident was completely that - an accident - but because the choice was made not to wear a seatbelt, the driver of the car responsible for the accident is now being charged w/vehicular manslaughter. Just one example of how the choice to not wear a seatbelt can absolutely impact those besides you.
Missy Merman December 20, 2012 at 08:26 AM
@Baba: I just felt the need to tell you how much I love your handle. Hilarious. :)
Missy Merman December 20, 2012 at 08:43 AM
Re: ID/photo law Jesse White commented on how it would be difficult for the Amish to use said ID should they be traveling by plane (which apparently some do) ... Maybe I have this wrong, but if an Amish person decides to make such a large exception to his/her religious beliefs and fly on a plane, and part of flying on a plane is purchasing a ticket and handing that ticket w/your photo ID to TSA in order to get ON the plane, then I'm confused. How is the picture a different or bigger exception to make than flying is? Also, I'm fairly certain that the Amish don't take their pictures as they believe it is a form of vanity. These are not school portraits to be hung on the wall, or put in frames ... I am so confused by this. It sounds like this form of ID may or may not be accepted depending on individual discretion. Is there a list of things it can't be used for? Can other religions also request this type of ID? Can anyone simply say that they do not wish to have their picture taken, due to religious beliefs? Either this is going to end up not being a big deal @ all, or else it's going to be hugely taken advantage of and used for loopholes in the law.

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