Residents in California had several distractions in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, and the United States presidential election only name a few of them. As a result of these distractions, residents of the state did not take notice of the new laws put into place in the last quarter of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Below is a rundown of the more relevant changes to California law this year.
New Health Laws and Regulations
COVID-19 in the Workplace
Assembly Bill No. 685 institutes employment safety standards statewide. These OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) requirements include employers taking definitive steps within 24 hours of being notified their employees may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. Such mandates include companies reporting an outbreak of three or more cases at a jobsite to their location public health department and written notifications to potentially exposed employees. Additionally, the bill provides OSHA the authority to implement these new requirements. These enforcements include civil infractions for non-compliance in which employers could face up to $25,000 in fines.
Assembly Bill No. 2537 states that hospitals must maintain an inventory of personal protective equipment for their employees for at least three months or face a fine of up to $25,000 per violation.
Senate Bill No. 1159 extends workers’ compensation to those who may have contracted COVID-19 on the job. This bill was put into effect for workers who suffer sickness or death from COVID-19 between July 6th, 2020 and January 1st, 2023.
Senate Bill No. 1383 extends the California Family Rights Act to include smaller employers. Provided the company has at least 5 employees, Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance benefits gives working Californians the freedom to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for themselves, the serious health condition of a family member, or to bond with a new child.
Laws Providing Additional Coverage for Mental Health
Senate Bill No. 855 builds on the current legislationâ€™s mental health coverage requirements for commercial health plans and insurers in California. Previously, laws mandated coverage of medically appropriate care for nine identified mental illnesses. Additionally, health plan carriers are now required to cover the treatment of drug addiction, anxiety, opioid use, alcohol use, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Under Senate Bill No. 855, medically necessary basic and intermediate health care are insured and limiting covered services to short-term acute care is prohibited.
New Criminal LawsÂ
Behind the Vehicle Penalties
Assembly Bill No. 47 will add 1 point to a driverâ€™s record should they violate the stateâ€™s hands-free laws twice within 36 months. Should a police officer even suspect that a driver is holding the phone up to their ear or that they are texting and driving, the driver will be issued a citation. First time penalties incur a fee of $20, while subsequent offenses incur a fee of $50 at each turn. These initial monetary charges are not included in the additional court and administrative fee costs that will be tacked on at later dates.Â
Assembly Bill No. 2717 amends the existing Unattended Children Liability law. The new bill exempts a Good Samaritan from civil or criminal liability from trespassing or damaging a car while rescuing a child 6 years of age or younger who is in imminent danger from heat, cold, lack of ventilation.
Assembly Bill No. 2542 institutes The California Racial Justice Act. This law prohibits the state from obtaining a criminal conviction or from imposing a sentence on the basis of race, ethnicity, or nationality. This new Act gives a person charged with or convicted of a crime an opportunity to challenge their case provided there is evidence of such. Proof of prejudice includes: 1) Racial bias by an attorney, judge, witness, law enforcement officer, or juror; 2) Use of racially discriminatory language during the trial; 3) Racial particularity in selecting the jury; 4) Statistical evidence that people of one race are excessively charged or convicted of a specific crime; and 5) Sentencing disparities – where one race receives longer and more severe sentences than another.
Senate Bill No. 823, the Juvenile Justice Realignment Bill, is phasing out the three remaining juvenile prisons and replacing them with the Office of Youth and Community Restoration. This bill supports juveniles leaving the criminal justice system and instead, be referred to community support services. The goal of this new law is to prevent children that are acting out in school, at home, or on the streets, from being referred to probation programs or becoming a ward of the court.
Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Keep up to date with criminal law changes on our blog and reach out to Sal Ciulla if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney. Practicing exclusively in the area of criminal defense, Sal brings the highest level of experience to every case he handles. For more than 30 years, he has practiced as one of Orange Countyâ€™s top criminal lawyers, and in that time, he has brought 200 jury trials to verdict â€“ including over 20 murder trials. Call (714) 542-0500 or submit a confidential contact form for your free consultation.