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Judge Explains Some New State Laws

Judge Gerald A. Williams
North Valley Justice of the Peace

Although it has been awhile since our state legislature adjourned for the year, many of the 342 new state laws became effective on the first of July. They concern everything from fingerprint requirements for employees of alarm companies to university funding. Some involve driving. Others involve victims’ rights.

Senate Bill 1073, which is not effective until August 9, 2017, prohibits someone from placing a cover over their vehicle’s license-plate. Some believe that these covers can be used to defeat photo enforcement tickets. While people are free to debate that question, it did not appear to be a motivation for the legislation.

At first, it may seem silly to ban a clear plastic license-plate cover, but their use can trigger a safety problem for law enforcement officers.  Even a clear cover can generate glare, making it difficult to read the license plate at an angle. 

Teenagers can no longer lawfully text and drive due to Senate Bill 1080. It prohibits someone with a Class G Driver License from using a wireless communication device while driving for any reason, with certain exceptions, such as an emergency. A Class G Driver License is a graduated license for individuals who are at least 16 years old but are younger than 18 years old. It allows young people to drive any vehicle that does not require a motorcycle or commercial driver license.

So why should it be lawful for anyone to text and drive? That is a fair question, but this legislation only passed Arizona’s House of Representatives by a vote of 32 to 24, with 3 members not voting. 

Some of the other adopted legislation includes some additional rights for crime victims. If a crime victim also has an attorney, House Bill 2241 now requires prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys to mail a copy of any pleading, that they file with the court, to the victim’s attorney as well. It passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Another victim’s rights bill is more complicated. House Bill 2269 also passed unanimously. It essentially states that if a current or former prisoner wins a lawsuit against a government agency, then the government agency must first pay the felon’s victim any restitution that is due, before any money is paid to the felon.

There is no easy way to follow legislation and it moves through our state House and Senate, but the Arizona Legislature’s web page is very good. It even stores videos of debates on the bills and can be found at: http://www.azleg.gov.

Judge Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.