Law Review; Over 900 laws take effect in ’98 |

Law Review; Over 900 laws take effect in ’98

This is another of a series of columns on a few of the 951 laws enacted in Sacramento in 1997. By the end of the year, we will have covered the key new laws for 1998- just in time for 1999.


As of July 1, landlords must “install and maintain an operable deadbolt lock on each main swinging entry door of a dwelling unit.” Only the California legislature could take 15 column inches of fine-print to require deadbolts on rental units. The code also requires installation of “operable window security or locking devises for (most) windows that are designed to be opened.” Landlords and tenants should read Civil Code 1941.3. This code will “hit the fan” when it becomes public knowledge.

Gift Certificates

Once again, only in California would you have a law like this. After Jan. 1, 1997, it is unlawful for any person or entity to sell a gift certificate containing an expiration date. Gift certificates with expiration dates are redeemable in cash or must be replaced with a new no-expiration certificate.

The law does not apply to any of the following gift certificates issued after Jan. 1, 1998, provided the expiration date appears in capital letters in at least 10-point font on the front of the gift certificate: (1) Gift certificates (issued for free) distributed pursuant to an awards, loyalty or promotional program, (2) gift certificates that are sold below face value at a volume discount to employers or to non-profit and charitable organizations for fund raising purposes if the expiration date on those gift certificates is not more than 30 days after the date of sale, or (3) gift certificates that are issued for food products.

I don’t think this ridiculous bill applies to the gift certificates traditionally auctioned by local non-profits.


The homestead exemption for persons 65 years and older, for the mentally or physically disabled, or 55 years old or older with very low income – has been raised from $100,000 to $125,000.

Sex Offenders

Once the bandwagon starts rolling, everyone jumps on. Sex offenders may not have their names changed unless the court determines that it is in the best interest of justice.

Gun Storage

A new penal code makes a person guilty of criminal storage of a firearm if he or she has reason to know a child under 16 is likely to find the gun and carries it in a public place or causes injury – and the gun is not equipped with a locking device.

There is a plethora of new bills relating to the transportation, importation and sale of firearms as well as firearms sentencing enhancement bills.

Grand Juries

A new penal code requires a prosecutor, if he or she is aware of exculpatory evidence to inform a grand jury of its nature and existence. After disclosing the exculpatory evidence, the prosecutor must remind the grand jury that if it has reason that available evidence will explain away the charge, it must order the evidence produced.

Smog Checks

Existing law provides that vehicles manufactured prior to the 1966 model-year are exempt from smog check certificates. An amendment to the Vehicle Code now exempts vehicles manufactured prior to the 1977 model-year. And beginning January 1, 2003, vehicles that are 30 or more model-years old are exempt.


And finally, it is now a crime to commit “gassing” in a correctional facility by throwing any mixture of human excrement or other bodily fluids on an officer or employee.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and the Governor’s appointee on the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

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