From 'open carry' ban to red-light cameras, new CT laws take effect Sunday
From new gun restrictions to red light cameras, more than 100 new state laws take effect on Sunday.
Here are some highlights:
AUTOMATED SPEED & RED-LIGHT CAMERAS
Got the need for speed?
As of Sunday, automated speed and red-light cameras are legal. But you won't see them until next year. The Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to issue guidelines in January, according to spokesperson Josh Morgan. After that, cities and towns that want to install cameras must hold a public hearing on each proposed location, followed by local and state approval.
Drivers would get a violation notice in the mail for going at least 10 mph over the speed limit. A first offense will cost up to $50; additional ones run as much as $75. But unlike a regular speeding ticket, the violations won't carry insurance points.
In places like New York City and Washington D.C., drivers don't know where cameras are located. But in Connecticut, each one will have at least two warning signs 100 feet ahead.
In April, DOT launched a pilot speed camera program in highway work zones, including I-95 in East Norwalk. As of June, 1 in 5 drivers had received warnings in the mail.
NEW GUN LAWS
Sweeping new gun laws take effect this weekend, including a ban on openly carrying handguns, new "safe storage" requirements, stricter rules for firearms dealers and a limit of three handgun purchases per month. Larger city police chiefs pushed for the cap.
"There's too many people on these 'straw purchases,'" said Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary on Jan. 23. "'Straw purchases' meaning they come in, they buy a dozen guns – for, say, $500 a gun – and then they sell them on the street for $1,500."
The new restrictions are part of a sweeping gun control package pushed by Gov. Ned Lamont. Other provisions – including an expansion of Connecticut's assault weapons ban and a total ban on unregistered "ghost guns" – took effect earlier this year.
SHOOTING BEARS IN SELF-DEFENSE
Speaking of guns, you can now shoot a bear in self-defense. The new law comes after several highly publicized bear encounters, some of which turned violent.
"They're getting very used to people," said DEEP Wildlife Division director Jenny Dickson on April 21. "They're getting a little too comfortable around our yards and around our neighborhoods."
Lawmakers dropped plans to ban "unintentional feeding" of bears and a controversial proposal for a limited bear hunt in Litchfield County.
Connecticut is cracking down on "street takeovers," where hundreds of cars, dirt bikes and ATVs flood the streets. In the past few months, they've happened in Milford and Orange, as well as West Haven.
"I think there just has to be harsher penalties," Kim-Marie Mullin, of West Haven, said on Aug. 21.
It's now illegal to advertise a street gathering or carry a gun to one. Penalties can include six months in prison or a $1,000 fine. The new law also expands the definition of a "street takeover" to include "intent to cause disorder or create a nuisance."
"Deceptive interrogation" of juveniles will now be banned in most cases. If police lie to an underage suspect, the information will be inadmissible in court.
In March, Terrill Swift traveled from Chicago to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. Swift spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. His case led to the nation's first ban on deceptive interrogations.
"At 17 years of age, I was arrested, taken into custody, questioned for a crime I had absolutely no knowledge of. Was threatened that I was going to die in jail, that I was never going to see my mother again," Swift said at a news conference at the state Capitol complex.
For all suspects, "coerced" confessions – in which a suspect is physically threatened or denied food, sleep and bathroom breaks – will also be inadmissible in most cases.
In Connecticut, 21% of exonerations were due to false confessions since 1989, according to data from the National Registry of Exonerations. Among them was Bobby Johnson of New Haven, who was 16 years old when he confessed to a murder he didn't commit. Johnson's case cost the state $3 million in restitution.
Mike Lawlor, a criminal justice advisor to former Gov. Dannel Malloy who now teaches at the University of New Haven, said police interviews now must be recorded on video in Connecticut, leading to less risk for abuse.
"There's nothing in that bill that's not already the rules that govern what police are supposed to do," Lawlor told News 12 in March.
Lawlor agreed that deceptive interrogation should be banned for minors. But for adults, he said police sometimes need to mislead suspects.
"For example, 'We have your buddy in the other room, and he says it was all your idea.' Sometimes that elicits a person saying, 'No, it wasn't my idea; it was his idea,' which is a very incriminating statement," he said.
BIRTHING CENTERS & DOULAS
Free-standing "birthing centers" will now be allowed in Connecticut to address a shrinking number of hospital maternity units – especially in rural areas.
Last month, state regulators rejected a plan to close Sharon Hospital's birth unit. For Lydia Moore, who just gave birth in July, the hospital was critical.
"I live one hour from Danbury Hospital and 50 minutes from Vassar Brothers in Poughkeepsie," Moore said on Aug. 30. "My water broke in the car, on the way to the hospital. And our daughter was born 40 minutes after we arrived."
The law also creates a new certification for doulas, nonmedical pregnancy guides who can advocate for patients. Health care advocates hope it will reduce the staggering rate of Black mothers dying during childbirth.
OTHER NEW LAWS
Other new laws taking effect on Oct. 1 include:
Daily reimbursement for food and medicine during extended power outages
A law protecting seniors from scams
A ban on colleges withholding transcripts over student debt
Animal shelters must now have heating and cooling systems at animal shelters
A ban on harvesting horseshoe crabs
A ban on discounted hourly rates at motels, to reduce human trafficking