New legislation almost by definition affects the law. But some bills’ implications for the legal profession promise to be farther reaching than others’.
Of the 56 bills Gov. Scott Walker put his signature on last week, here are those that are most likely to be noticed by lawyers as they go about their everyday business:
• Act 340 — This law makes it a Class I felony to hit a prosecutor with various bodily fluids, including spit, urine or blood. Before the change, a person who attacked a prosecutor in that way was only subject to a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct. With the Class 1 felony, prosecutors now have the same protection as police officers, firefighters and various sorts of emergency medical workers. Class I felonies are punishable by fines not to exceed $10,000 and no more than 3-1/2 years of prison.
• Act 339 — This law prevents bar owners from being held legally liable if they are not present when one of their bartenders serves alcohol to an underage customer and is then caught as part of an undercover “sting operation.” Under the new law, law-enforcement officials will be allowed at such times to issue citations only to bartenders. The maximum fine for serving alcohol to a minor is $500. But if a person has more than one violation over the course of 30 months, various criminal penalties also apply.
• Act 293 — This law prevents the owners and operators of private campgrounds from being held legally liable if a camper is hurt or killed from something stemming from the inherent risks of camping. The law defines the inherent risks as including uneven terrain, natural bodies of water, other campers acting negligently, weather, wildlife and campfires in fire pits. The law, though, does not provide immunity to owners and operators who act with willful and wanton disregard of others’ safety or who do not post signs warning guests of inconspicuous dangers.
• Act 311 — This law makes it a Class I felony to make terrorist threats. The law defines such threats as any that are made to kill or hurt a person or harm his property and that are made in the pursuit of various goals. Those goals include preventing the occupation of a building or vehicle, causing public inconvenience or panic or fear and interrupting government operations or public services. Anyone who violates the prohibition and causes a person’s death is guilty of a Class G felony. A Class G felony is punishable by a fine not to exceed $25,000 and no more than 10 years in prison.
• Act 319 — This law removes the requirement that prosecutors who are pressing charges for a hit-and-run offense prove that a driver who fled the scene was in fact aware that what he had struck was a person or an occupied vehicle. Drivers who hit something now must get out of their vehicles and make a reasonable investigation. If they have any reason to believe they killed or hurt someone or damaged a vehicle, they must stay at the scene and provide assistance and information concerning the incident.
• Act 332 — This law adds heroin metabolite — the chemical substances that heroin turns into in a person’s body — to the list of restricted controlled substances that someone’s blood can be tested for to determine if he has operated a vehicle while intoxicated.
• Act 335 — This law makes it a Class I felony to extort money by maliciously threatening to reveal information that would humiliate a person or harm his reputation or would make the person do something against his will. The information could include photographs, film, motion pictures and sound recordings.
• Act 292 — This law makes it a Class I felony to use various devices to capture an “intimate representation” — generally a picture of someone in the nude or only partially clothed — and distribute or exhibit it without the subject’s consent. The law stipulates that anyone under the age of 18 is incapable of giving consent and that anyone who suffers from mental illness is presumed to be incapable of consenting. The law also clarifies that a surveillance device need not be installed for the prohibition to apply; nor does it need to be used primarily for the purpose of observing the activities of a person. The law comes in the wake of a prominent case in which the Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews was filmed naked without her knowledge and the resulting videos were distributed online.
• Act 320 — Raises the penalties for all offenses related to unlawful depictions of nudity when the victims are under the age of 18.Follow @TDR_WLJDan