Several new laws take effect Saturday, July 1

Published 9:55 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

Several new laws passed by the Mississippi Legislature take effect Saturday, July 1, including several related to vehicle safety. 

Traffic laws

Beginning July 1, all passengers of a motor vehicle are required to wear seat belts except those required to use a child passenger restraint system. Senate Bill 2724 expands on the current law, which only required front seat passengers to wear a seat belt. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“The good thing about the new seat belt law, is that it will protect all passengers,” said Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. “It should have been like that from the very beginning.”

According to Fortenberry, fines for not wearing a seat belt will be around $33.50 for each person in the vehicle not buckled-up. 

The state is also outlawing people riding in the back of pickup trucks. 

“If you’re looking at the truck issue, that would fall into the new seat belt law,” Fortenberry said. “There are no seat belts back there. You have to have a seat belt on when you’re riding in a vehicle. Anywhere in the vehicle and that’s part of the vehicle. You have to be restrained.”

Fortenberry credited the Legislature for passing and updating the seat belt law. 

“It never made sense to me that the front seat passengers had to be safe but your back seat passengers didn’t,” Fortenberry said. “Hopefully it will protect people from being ejected from the vehicle, even in the back seat when it comes to serious accidents.”

The move over law has been amended to include rural mail carriers marked with some combination of white flashing strobee or amber and red lights.

Domestic violence

The Legislature passed a bill that allows spouses who are domestic violence victims to have grounds for divorce. 

“Unfortunately, some marriages are filled with violence or mental abuse and intimidation,” said Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven. “This revision to the Mississippi divorce law will help victims free themselves from these types of abusive relationships.”

Senate Bill 2703 was the first major change to the state’s divorce laws in more than 40 years. “Irreconcilable differences” was the last addition, in 1976. 

Drug and alcohol laws

House Bill 1322 will be good news for breweries in the state of Mississippi. It allows small craft breweries to sell light wine or beer they produce on the premises of the brewery. Breweries are allowed to sell up to 10 percent of their yearly product or 1,500 barrels. 

Under Senate Bill 2194, several synthetic opioids have been added to the list of Schedule I narcotics under the Controlled Substance Act, including butyryl fentanyl and beta hydroxythiofentanyl. They are mainly used in combination with other narcotics such as amphetamines and the mixtures can have deadly results. 

House Bill 812 requires the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics to establish and maintain a searchable public website which includes certain information regarding property that is seized by a law enforcement agency.

Miscellaneous laws

“Back the Badge Act,” otherwise known as “Blue, Red and Med Lives Matter Act,” will enhance the penalty for any crime committed against a police officer or first responder. This includes law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. 

House Bill 1116 says that any special public meeting held must be announced on a public body’s website at least one hour before the meeting takes place. 

House Bill 686 states that residents may request a revision of their tax returns for three years following each tax season, while Senate Bill 2445 provides a data match program with the Department of Revenue that lets all financial institutions have immediate access to residents who are behind on taxes. The current law has the DOR send the financial institution levies when a person defaults on their taxes.