New laws now in effect
BENTON - A number of new laws went into effect Sunday, many of them related to the production of methamphetamine.
House Bill 353 accounts for many of the changes in criminal law.
As of Sunday, first degree arson is expanded to cover damage to a structure caused by fire or explosion resulting from an attempt to produce methamphetamine.
The application of first degree endangering the welfare of a child has also been expanded to include situations in which a suspect produces, sells or attempts to produce a drug in a home with a child under the age of 17 present.
Many prosecutors already charged suspects with endangering the welfare of a child when meth labs were busted, but the new language "made it more clear, easier to prove," according to Paul Boyd, prosecuting attorney for Scott County.
By including the phrase "attempts to produce," HB 353 makes it a crime to take a substantial step toward manufacturing meth in a home with children. Even collecting ingredients for meth will be considered a substantial step toward the drug's manufacture.
House Bill 441 also targeted meth production. Under this bill, pseudoephedrine and ephedrine become a Schedule 5 drug.
"This law will make it very, very difficult for cooks to get a hold of the main ingredient to make meth without being recorded," Boyd said.
Only pharmacies will be able to legally sell compounds containing these substances, keeping them behind the counter, logging all sales of such compounds and demanding photo identification from purchasers.
Purchasers of these drugs must be at least 18 years of age. Individuals may only purchase 9 grams of these drugs in any 30-day period unless they have a prescription. The 30-day restriction does not include liquid or gel-cap forms but no person may purchase over 9 grams of the liquid or gel-cap form at one time.
In other changes brought by House Bill 353:
* Individuals can now be held for up to 24 hours for investigation without a warrant before the state has to charge the suspect with a crime. This 24-hour period previously only applied to class A felony investigations with all other crimes having a 20-hour investigative hold provision.
The additional four hours will make a big difference, according to Boyd, making this one of the more significant changes put into effect Sunday.
"It allows police officers additional time to complete investigations instead of trying to rush through them," he said.
The extra four hours will also help prosecutors process defendants. "It alleviates the rush in the mornings to get charges filed in the courts," Boyd said.
* Tampering with a witness is now applicable even if law enforcement officials have not started their criminal investigation. This includes threats made immediately following a crime to keep victims from going to police, according to Boyd.
* Convicted sexual offenders who commit new sex offenses on victims under age 14 now must be supervised for the rest of their lives by the Board of Probation and Parole using electronic monitoring by a global positioning system with the goal of knowing their whereabouts at all times.
Violating this lifetime supervision is a class C felony.
* Teachers who have sexual contact with a student on school property are now guilty of a new class D felony, sexual contact with a student.
Sexual contact with students has always been illegal, according to Boyd, but some types of offenses previously may have been only misdemeanors. "They just made it more specific," he said.
* Punishment for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle was increased from 15 days in jail to six months in jail, and the maximum fine from $300 to $500, or a combination of fine and confinement.
Boyd said even without the change, motorists should "be considerate on the roads especially when we've lost three officers within the year that were preventable if people followed the law." When an officer or a motorist with a disabled vehicle is on the side of the road, "a conscientious driver would get over in the next lane to give them safety while passing that vehicle."
* Theft of cable services has been expanded to include when a person knowingly attempts to tamper with any cable television equipment that results in the disruption or unauthorized use of cable TV services.