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Nearly 250 New Laws in Effect in Oklahoma


Each year on November 1, the bulk of new legislation passed by the Oklahoma House and Senate takes effect. Yesterday, 249 new laws became effective in Oklahoma, and while most of these will have little impact on the lives of the majority of Oklahomans, there are several which are of great significance.

Perhaps the two laws generating the most buzz on social media are Oklahoma's new texting-while-driving ban and the state's new car seat law.

While distracted driving was already against the law in Oklahoma, it was previously a secondary offense. This meant that you would only be cited for distracted driving if you caused an accident. There were no laws specifically pertaining to texting while driving. With the new texting ban taking effect, texting while driving becomes a primary offense, and drivers can be ticketed if they are spotted texting and driving. Beginning yesterday, texting while driving in Oklahoma is punishable by a $100 fine.

Oklahoma's child passenger restraint laws--previously some of the most lax in the nation--now match recommendations by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). For some parents, this may be difficult if they have to take a child who was not in a booster seat and make him or her sit in one, or if they turned an infant forward-facing and now have to turn the child back to rear-facing. The new laws require that an infant or toddler remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least two years of age. At that point, children aged 2 to 4 may ride in a forward-facing, but they must remain in a car seat with a 5-point harness. Children aged 5 and up may continue riding in a 5-point harness car seat, or they may graduate to a booster seat, where they must remain until the age of 8 or until reaching a height of 4'9, whichever comes first.

Although these have been the most widely discussed new laws on social media, there are several other notable laws taking effect:

  • Doctors are now required to check the OBN's Prescription Monitoring Program database in an effort to reduce "doctor shopping" and attempts to obtain prescription drugs illegally.
  • Oklahoma's death penalty may now be carried out by lethal injection (although there is currently a moratorium due to lethal injection drug mix-ups); and if that should be ruled unconstitutional, by nitrogen gas; and if that should ruled unconstitutional, by electrocution; and if that should be ruled unconstitutional, by firing squad. Oklahoma seems quite unwilling to let the death penalty die.
  • The OSBI can now issue gun licenses to people who have been convicted of misdemeanor drug crimes if it has been at least 10 years since the applicant completed his or her sentence.
  • The Justice Safety Valve Act, which we discussed here and here, will allow judges to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences under certain conditions, allowing them to use their discretion in cases where a mandatory minimum sentence would not be a true measure of justice.          

These are only a few of the nearly 250 laws that went into effect yesterday.View the full list of new laws in 2015 by effective date and bill number here

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