Thinking of hacking into someone’s Facebook account and posting funny status updates? Make sure your comments aren’t offensive or you might be charged with a misdemeanor for impersonation.
Over 700 new and updated bills from the California State Senate and Assembly went into effect starting Jan. 1, 2011. Some of these laws concern online impersonation, truancy in elementary and secondary schools, marijuana possession and providing alcohol to underage drinkers.
In Senate Bill 1411, California state senators made online impersonation for the purposes of harming, intimidating or threatening a misdemeanor. This law fines or jails any person impersonating another through a website or by electronic means.
Lieutenant Matthew Carmichael, UC Davis campus police officer, said many online impersonation cases could come forward, especially in cases of domestic violence and tormented high school students.
Lauryn Steuckrath, senior English major, said the punishment should be more severe depending on the severity of the situation.
“I have personally dealt with [online impersonation]. The law protects people from slander, which is good because a lot of people are online,” Steuckrath said.
Marcie Arjona, sophomore chemistry major, said the bill would be a good way to prevent bullying and suicides.
“I always hear a bunch of stories about people getting hacked on Facebook and Myspace. I think it’ll be a good thing because it’ll keep [the sites] more mature and clean and safe for everyone,” Arjona said.
Although California voters rejected Proposition 19, the California legislature approved SB 1449, which became effective this year. This decriminalizes marijuana possession of 28.5 grams and less to a mere infraction, punishable by a $100 fine. Violations will also not be included on the defendant’s criminal record.
In a press release, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated he approved the bill to save the state from expending limited resources on a widespread and minor crime.
Arjona disagrees with SB 1449 because she said people will become desensitized to the severity of smoking.
“I think that it is a slap-on-the-wrist kind of thing. If people know they’ll only get fined $100, they will do it and not be worried about it,” Arjona said.
According to the new California law, SB 1317, if a student (grades one through eight) is truant, or unexcused absent, for more than 10 percent of the school year; his or her parents will be fined or put in jail.
“[H]e or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year,” SB 1317 states.
Although UC Davis police do not deal with this law, Lieutenant Carmichael said with the widespread reductions in bussing students to school, the timing is interesting.
“It’s difficult if you think about a single parent trying to get their child to school. I get [the law] in extreme cases when it’s absolute neglect,” Carmichael said.
According to Assembly Bill 1999, a person under 21 who calls “911” asking for medical assistance due to alcohol consumption for himself, herself or for another person is granted limited immunity from criminal prosecution.
Carmichael stated UC Davis police already follow this policy and noted that the law only grants immunity to the caller, not to everyone present when the call is made.
“We would always prefer the student to call than have someone die. It just makes good sense,” Carmichael said.
Assembly state members also approved AB 2486, stating a social host who provides alcohol at his or her residence to a person under 21 may be legally liable for the resulting injuries or death. The family of the victim will need to prove negligence occurred.
Steuckrath said she believes social hosts should be responsible for anyone drinking under 18 years, not for those under 21.
Carmichael recommended community members visit UC Davis’ Safe Party Initiative website for tips to host or attend a party in a safe manner.
“This law puts the responsibility on the people providing alcohol. With Picnic Day coming up this an important and good reminder,” Carmichael said.
Another new law, AB 2203, requires the UC Regents to revise their policies to ensure that UC faculty will choose less expensive textbooks. Regardless of publication date, faculty will be encouraged to use the least costly book for as long as it is readily available and portrays contemporary thinking in the respective subject.
Arjona said encouraging faculty to use less expensive books would be a relief to students. She said different editions often seem the same, despite large price gaps.
“I think it would be good as long as [the textbook] has everything the professor needs. A lot of books are really expensive and tuition and everything is going up,” Arjona said.
Arjona said it will take some time for many people to hear about many of these laws and some might not get the message until something happens to one of their friends.
For the complete list of the 725 new laws, check out http://diversitynewspublications.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/StateofCANewLaws2011.pdf for more information.
GRACE BENEFIELD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.