New Laws That Took Effect in Minnesota This Year

New laws went into effect in Minnesota this year. The so-called "laundry list" of regulations tackle vehicular and road safety via the hands-free and “slowpoke” laws. In addition, vaping in public indoor spaces has become criminalized. Lastly, Minnesota is aiming to help reunite families of those who have lost parental rights due to "non-egregious harm".

Because such a high number of laws have gone into effect so quickly, it can be challenging for the average person to know exactly what each entails. Read on to learn more about these new laws.

Hands-Free While Driving

The law that has received plenty of press coverage is the hands-free law. Minnesotans are no longer allowed to have their phones in hand while driving. Minnesota is a bit late in passing such a law, and many states that have an active hands-free law have seen a reduced number of overall driving accidents.

This change does not wholly criminalize phone usage while driving. Drivers can still operate their phones through voice activation or single-touch activation. Fortunately many newer models of cars have built-in Bluetooth systems, which allows drivers to take and make phone calls without using their hands. Those who own older cars can purchase hands-free car mounts and Bluetooth adapters. The fine for holding a phone while driving is $130 for the first offense and could increase to $300 for the next offense.

Slow Drivers in the Left Lane

In what has been termed the "slowpoke" law, slow drivers can be fined for driving in the left lane. The law has been met with some criticism over its ambiguity. What many don't realize, however, is that the intended purpose of the left lane is for passing other vehicles. Therefore it is not illegal for someone to go over the speed limit if they are passing another driver. This law directly targets those who drive under the speed limit in the left lane.

Groping Penalty Increase

Aggressively grabbing someone's clothed bottom without their consent now counts as fifth-degree criminal sexual misconduct and is a gross misdemeanor, punishable up to a $3000 fine and a year in jail.

Vaping Indoors

Minnesota's Clean Indoor Air Act has only impacted tobacco smoking in public indoor spaces. Since 2007, it has been illegal to smoke cigarettes or cigars in indoor buildings. Changes expand that law to include vaping and E-cigarettes. Many cities and counties across Minnesota already have limits on vaping indoors, but this law extends statewide. It spawned from a rising concern over the health effects of vaping.

Parental Rights

Those who have lost their parental rights due to non-egregious harm can now petition to have their parental rights reinstated. Before this law went into effect, only county attorneys had the authority to file a petition. For the request to have been presented, the child must have been in foster care for at least four years. This law only applies to parents who have lost their rights based on non-egregious harm and cannot be applied to families who lost rights from sexual, physical or psychological abuse.

References:

"A Laundry List of New MN Laws That Kick in Aug. 1." KARE, 26 July 2019, www.kare11.com/article/news/a-laundry-list-of-new-mn-laws-that-kick-in-aug-1/89-df130a6f-74c0-41f7-beab-f1a302776a86.

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