California Law Changes for 2021
With the dawn of every new year, legislators all across the country are also preparing for a new chapter in legislature and policy. From reforming previous laws to a thorough review, looking for gaps and improvement in current public policy, the start of the year has always been busy and hectic for legislators.
Even with shortened congressional sessions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our legislators remained dedicated and unstoppable from coming up with solutions and drafting, improving, and approving laws the Golden State sorely needs.
Although California As of January 1st this year, laws on traffic, race & gender, the workplace, child safety, and education have risen into effect, with dozens more coming in the next few months.
We want to outline what we consider the most important laws that have gone into effect and how they will affect the residents of the Golden State not only in 2021 but in the years to come. To do this, we have broken down the most important new laws in California into a few categories.
Traffic Law Changes in 2021
The way Californians travel and behave on the road will change in a significant way this year. Starting January 1, 2021, several new bills regarding traffic saafety have gone into effect. These new laws pertain to reducing driving distractions, awareness of emergency and personal vehicles, and “Good Samaritan” exemptions in child rescue from cars.
The California Highway Patrol highlighted the following four important new traffic safety laws that residents of California must be aware of:
- Unattended Children in Motor Vehicles (AB2717): While the previous law in place already makes it a punishable offense to leave children less than 6 years old unattended inside a car without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age, it prevented what is called “Good Samaritans” from rescuing the children believed to be at risk if they incur in property damages.
The new bill introduces some reservations about liability in case a person sees the need to rescue a child from imminent risks coming from being left alone inside a vehicle. Now, when the said “Good Samaritan” sees the need for action, providing they take the appropriate steps, they won’t be held criminally liable for breaking into the vehicle.
According to the new law, the steps that need to be taken are:
- Determine that the vehicle is locked and there’s no other way to safely remove the child.
- Act in good faith and believe the child is in imminent danger and forcible entry is necessary.
- Contact a Law Enforcement Agency or emergency service by calling 911 before forcibly entering the vehicle.
- Remain with the child in a safe location, sheltered from the elements and near the vehicle.
- Use no more force than necessary to remove the child from the vehicle.
- Immediately turn over the child to the police or another emergency worker.
- Move Over Slow Down (AB2258): Extending the provisions on the current “Move Over, Slow Down” law from freeways to the normal street, now drivers approaching stationary emergency vehicles and personnel flashing emergency lights must slow down to a reasonable speed and/or change lanes when possible.
In this new amendment, Caltrans workers, tow trucks, and Caltrans vehicles are also protected. Failure to do so merits a $50 fine. According to Officer Kevin Anderson from Fontana Police Department, the new law won’t affect the agency’s patrol officers’ policies when conducting traffic enforcement. However, it welcomed any increased awareness of roadway safety efforts related to those working roadside, whether they be police officers or Caltrans workers.
- Distracted Driving Penalties: To further increase road safety and avoid the use of mobile phones while driving, effective July 1st 2021, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV) will add a penalty point to the driver’s license record if they receive 2 tickets in the span of 36 months for using their phone without a hands-free device. The statute also extends to texting while driving.
- Emergency Vehicles (SB909): The bills allow emergency vehicles to use a “Hi-lo” sound for alerting the populace in case an immediate evacuation of a certain area is necessary instead of the standard siren sounds.
Law enforcement and other first responder agencies need to ask for a permit from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in case they need a Hi-lo warning sound until regulations regarding uniform adoption are in place. Currently, the CHP is looking into ways to standardized the Hi-lo warning siren statewide.
Policing and Law Enforcement Changes in 2021
2020 has been a revealing year for law enforcement around the country as they face controversies like excessive use of force and biases inside police departments. Moreover, law enforcement personnel have been under scrutiny from the general population for some years now. Since then, lawmakers are fighting to make their law enforcement departments more transparent and accountable to both legislative officials and the public.
In the case of the California Legislature, the rise in incidents involving Latino and African-American communities prompted legislators to adjust the law as they try to reduce the excessive use of force prevalent in law enforcement.
Assembly Bill No. 1196 (AB1196) represents the first statewide ban of restraining tactics using choke-holds and carotid restraint against detained subjects, as well as reformation on police officers’ training to avoid circumstances of excessive use of force when more effective and non-life-threatening tactics can be used. Definitions of these now-banned moves are as follows:
- Choke-hold: any defensive tactic or force option in which direct pressure is applied to a person’s trachea or windpipe.
- Carotid Restraint: a vascular neck restraint or any similar restraint, hold, or another defensive tactic in which pressure is applied to the sides of a person’s neck that involves substantial risk of restricting blood flow and may render the person unconscious to subdue or control the person.
While restraints and chokeholds are commonly used in martial arts like wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in a safe manner, the dreadful situations with the involvement of the police have demonstrated the misuse of said restraint techniques, escalating their use to lethal levels.
In addition, AB1506 would require a state prosecutor to investigate the involvement of a law enforcement official in a shooting that resulted in the death of an unarmed civilian. The state prosecutor’s role would fall to the Attorney General unless, otherwise, specified.
Employment Law Changes in 2021
New labor laws enacted mainly concern themselves with employee well-being and physical health in the framework of the Covid-19 pandemic. The minimum wage has also been given a general raise with some specifications depending on certain factors.
Despite efforts from lobbyists, the state legislature continues its efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Starting on January 1 this year, businesses with less than 25 employees must now pay at least $13 an hour, while those with 26 or more employees have to compensate their workers with $14 per hour.
Similarly, the state is now increasing its unpaid leave program, giving workers up to 12 weeks in either parental leave or to taking care of a sick family member. Senate Bill No. 1383 (SR21383) states that any business with more than 5 employees is required to offer this benefit.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, AB685 states that employers must now notify their workers if any of the employees have contracted the disease or has been exposed to it, creating a serious risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus in the workplace.
New Healthcare Laws in 2021
From March last year up until this day, despite every risk of exposure and contagion, healthcare workers and officials have been battling this global pandemic head-on. While braving their way at the frontlines of this global crisis, risking their physical and mental well-being to save lives, healthcare workers and officials undoubtedly deserve proper “modern hero” recognition of the 21st century.
The newly enacted laws in California related to healthcare are as follows:
- Senate Bill No. 275 (SB275) updates the Health and Safety Code of California requiring that the state is obligated to keep a stockpile of protective equipment and other necessities for healthcare and essential workers. Starting in 2023, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities must keep a stockpile lasting for at least 45 days at surge levels.
- Senate Bill No. 852 (SB852) authorizes the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to form partnerships or contracts with pharmaceutical companies or other state agencies to produce and distribute generic versions of common prescription drugs and insulin to increase the populace access to affordable medication.
How the New California Laws Will Affect You
The above-mentioned law changes are not the only bills that will get approved and will commence enforcement this year. There are hundreds of new laws that are yet to unfold which will definitely affect our daily lives, especially in the state of California.
Be it from traffic laws to education and health, these new bills aim to improve parts of the system with much-needed refinement. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and everything that happened last year, a silver lining has also vividly arise: from front-line health workers to your favorite grocery store clerks, the greatest lessons of 2020 are in terms of prevention and readiness.
If you want to learn more about the laws passed in California go to the to look at the full list of laws that will become effective this year.
No matter how careful and cautious you are, if others are not, traffic accidents will always seem inevitable. Incidents like these can happen no matter how much preventive measures our lawmakers create. We at Farahi Law Firm, APC cares for you, and if you ever get involved in a traffic accident, don’t hesitate to contact us at (844) 824 – 2955 for a free consultation and review regarding a personal injury case. We charge no fees until we win your case!