Share with your friends

Rocket Lawyer Family law

Happy New Laws, 2013!

Guest contributor Jesse Londin stops by to write about the brand new laws that went into effect this past Tuesday. From shark fins to car washes to the unsolvable bear vs. dog problem, here’s a fun roundup of this year’s freshest legal morsels.


Dogs chasing bears: apparently illegal now.

Some things change.

With the Time Square ball freshly wrapped and packed away, and the effects of new year party elixirs faded, Americans awoke January 1 to an eclectic lineup of new laws to follow.

While paralyzing partisanship, elections and fiscal throwdowns had most lawmakers spending 2012 doing a good impression of rats caught in a coffee can, legislatures at the state level did appear to find a bit of unexpected common ground. And a number of the bills state legislatures pushed through were probably stranger than any new year’s resolution you may have conjured up.

Legal oddities vary from state to state. And not all new laws take effect at once. According to a list compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, of 29,000 laws states passed in 2012, 400 went into effect New Year’s Day.

For folks feeling over-governed, that’s a big pile of new no-no’s and gotta-do’s. Naturally, the big, trending legal topics including health care, immigration, privacy, intellectual property rights, reproductive rights, climate, gay marriage, voting rights, marijuana and guns got all the nonstop attention they deserve. And these hot areas are certain to continue to capture media attention this year and beyond.

But what about the other vexing issues lawmakers fretted over last year and then quietly enacted clever legislation to cover?  Many little newborn legal gems made no headlines, and barely warranted a tweet. Other than in the big ticket legal arenas, some of what’s now on the books in your state might surprise you.


Do we really want to live in a world where this is illegal? DO WE?

For a start, there’s new dog law in California. From now on it is unlawful to let a dog pursue a bear or bobcat. This prohibition appears necessary apparently because dogs in California are apt to disobey a basic law of nature – you know, the one that says a dog shall run away from, not pursue, a bear or bobcat.

Meanwhile, over in the landlocked but seaworthy state of Illinois, lawmakers fished up a new law concerning sharks. And by sharks the state does not mean lawyers in Chicago. It is now against the law to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade or distribute shark fins in Illinois. This sharp law is silent regarding other body parts of the shark. And it’s apparently still lawful to sell the fins of whales, dolphins, salmon, stingrays, piranha, barracuda or other sea creatures.

Thanks goodness state lawmakers continued to oblige their fetishes for making laws about sex. For example, now sex offenders in Illinois are prohibited from distributing candy on Halloween, or playing Santa or the Easter Bunny. Sounds right. Although it seems to leave every other day of the year for predatory creeps to give candy to kiddies. And for some reason the law allows sex offenders play other kid-friendly characters, like Bugs Bunny.

Along similar lines, California now prohibits peace officers from having sex with arrestees on the way to jail. And make no mistake, this prohibition marks a loss from which the reality TV industry may never recover.

Although they were a bit off on that doomsday thing, I’m pretty sure the ancient Mayans saw this one coming: new Florida law finally revised the definition of “motor vehicle” to exclude swamp buggies. Scary that it took this long.

Cleanliness is a virtue, but car washes wasting water was a problem for some lawmakers. California now requires car washes to recycle at least 60 percent of their wash or rinse water. No rule on the other 40 percent, but assume it’s probably not lawful to just dump it in a nearby river.

Survey says "No. No your knot."

Survey says “No. No your knot.”

Earthquake prediction tax dollars are hard at work in Oregon. The state must make a website covering seismic risk for every kindergarten through grade 12 school. But look for a law next year that says never mind a website, there should be an app for that.

And if parents in Illinois were not reporting enough missing kids, from now on it’s a crime to fail to report the death or disappearance of a child under 13. But first parents should probably first confirm the kid isn’t secretly hanging out with friends playing Halo.

The body of tattoo law in California just got more colorful. Now the state’s tattoo removal program specifically includes folks tattooed for identification in trafficking or prostitution. The devil is in the details.

Oregon has stiffened its laws against disorderly conduct crimes committed within 200 feet of a funeral service. That’s right the earlier funeral rule wasn’t stiff enough.

See? Don’t let gridlock in Congress fool you. Lawmakers remain busy across the nation. And creative, too. Sadly, a few laws we may have hoped for failed to materialize. Like a law outlawing anyone doing anything Gangnam style, anywhere, ever again. Alas, no such law.

For now, on behalf of everyone here at Rocket Lawyer, have a happy, lawful & law-filled new year. And remember: report any bear-bullying dogs!

One Comment

  1. Jimmy G. says:

    The law against disorderly conduct is probably necessary since Westboro Church has taken to protesting funerals of military men and children killed in natural disasters. Not only are they an issue by themselves, but outrage over their horrible conduct has been reported all over the country, including counter protests. I appreciate the right for free speech – but I’m glad that this state passed this law. At least we should be able to honor and respect the dead.