Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul Talks New Laws in Effect

Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Each year on the first of July, new laws come into effect. Some of the new laws, or changes to old laws, have already become effective but the majority take effect on July 1st. Part of the routine at the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office each June is making sure we are familiar with any changes that affect us and our operation. We must ensure we are up to date on any changes to criminal and traffic laws and any laws related to criminal procedure. As we go through this process, it always occurs to me that there are some changes the general public may not be aware of. Here are a few:

The law now defines a "farm use vehicle" as an all-terrain or personal transportation vehicle, and allows a farmer (defined as owner of a farm or their immediate family over the age of 16) to use farm-use vehicles on public roads if the vehicle is properly marked for agricultural purposes. Municipalities may ban the use on public roads within their borders if they deem farm-use vehicles a danger to public safety.

The state’s fireworks laws have been modified. Previously, fireworks could be lit from 10 a.m. until midnight. Now they cannot be lit after 9 p.m. On the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, they could be lit until 2 a.m., now they must be concluded by midnight on July 4th and by 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Also, the proceeds of the 5-percent state excise tax on fireworks are dedicated as follows: 55 percent goes to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission; 40 percent goes to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council; and 5 percent goes to local government 9-1-1 systems.

The “move over” law has been expanded again. A few years ago it began with the law requiring drivers to move over if a law enforcement officer had a vehicle pulled over. Then, the law expanded to include garbage trucks. Now, it has grown to include service utility trucks if they are stationary on the side of the road. If the road is only two lanes and you can’t move over, you are required to slow down and use caution.

The penalty for human/sex trafficking has been increased from 10-20 years to 25-50 years if the victim has a developmental disability. There could also be a fine of up to $100,000.

School bus drivers are again allowed to use cell phones while driving but only if they use the device similarly to a two-way radio in order to communicate with school personnel. They can only use the device if they can complete the call by pushing a single button and there are restrictions on how far they can reach for the device. This is similar to the rules for truck drivers who use CB radios.

Students and employees of postsecondary/college institutions are still not allowed to carry firearms but may now carry stun-guns or TASERs. They may only use such devices in self-defense or the defense of others.

Driver’s licenses now last eight years.

The Department of Public Health may now create a drug repository program where people can donate certain unused medications which can then be dispensed to indigent elderly patients. This could go a long way toward improving the quality of life for this vital segment of our community.

It is now unlawful for a person to claim that they are a military veteran or recipient of a military decoration in order to receive a tangible benefit. It is also unlawful to wear a military decoration that a person has not been awarded.

The two-day back-to-school sales tax holiday and the two-day energy star sales tax holiday were both re-authorized this year.

Of course, these are just a few of the many changes that came out of this past legislative session. If you have any questions about these, or any other laws, please feel free to contact my office at 229-430-6508.