Crime Measures, Road Kill Permits Among New Laws

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — A list of new laws taking effect this week includes a way to test drivers who might be under the influence of marijuana and new permits to allow Montanans to salvage road kill.

More than 200 laws passed this spring by the Montana Legislature go into place Oct 1. Other bills already took effect in July, while a few will do so later.

Many of the new laws make relatively minor changes to law, repeal obsolete reports or boards and generally clean up state laws, while others make larger changes.

Attorney General Tim Fox lauded several new laws aimed at cracking down on impaired driving, sex offenders and other abuses.

One of the new laws aims to test drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. It establishes an allowable threshold in the blood of THC, an ingredient of marijuana.

Supporters said it was needed to prosecute people who drive impaired after illegally smoking marijuana. Opponents argued the THC remains in the system long after usage, making it an imperfect method of determining impairment.

Another new law, also aimed at impaired driving, allows courts to more easily consider past drunken-driving offenses when weighing the punishment for a repeat DUI offender.

Fox also touted new laws that crack down on sex offenders. One requires out-of-state sex offenders to submit a DNA sample when they move to the state. Another allows a district judge to designate a risk level to offenders who were not originally given one.

Both build on Fox’s efforts to continue improving the state’s sexual and violent offender registry.

“We want to have safe place in Montana for people to work, live and play,” Fox said.

Later this month the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet to start finalizing new rules to allow people to salvage road kill for meat. The Legislature authorized the panel to allow law-enforcement officers to issue permits to salvage animal carcasses of certain species that are struck and killed by vehicles.

Supporters argued it would help clean up road kill that can impede traffic and simply rot on the roadside. The commission is scheduled to meet Oct. 10 to discuss it.

Other notable new laws:

— Strikes down an obsolete law previously ruled unconstitutional by the courts that listed gay sex as deviate sexual conduct.

— Prohibits health care providers from asking patients questions about gun ownership.

— Criminalizes newer synthetic drugs, sometimes labeled bath salts.

— Requires state child welfare officials to report all known abuse to police.

— Increases penalties for infant abuse.

— Repeals business equipment tax reduction for value-added manufacturing, which no one had been using.

— Bans police from conducting a strip search for offenses on non-felony cases where a weapon is not suspected.

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