New Mississippi laws target dogfighting, left-lane driving

Published 2:54 pm Sunday, July 1, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Several new laws are taking effect Sunday in Mississippi. They are listed with bill numbers used during the legislative session.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE — House Bill 387 requires Mississippi officials to study sentencing disparities and juvenile detention. It lowers some criminal penalties and says courts can’t imprison people for failing to pay fines they can’t afford. It also lets judges impose lesser sentences on some third-time felons.

LEFT LANE DRIVING — House Bill 80 says that on any road with at least four lanes, a vehicle should not impede traffic in the left lane. Punishment would be a fine of $5 to $50. The new law specifies drivers should only use the left lane for passing, unless the right lane is closed, is in disrepair or is otherwise impassable. Drivers could also use the left lane for a left-hand turn or left exit.

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EMERGENCY VEHICLES — House Bill 1202 , the “Kaelin Kersh Act,” requires emergency vehicles, including law enforcement, to use their lights when going 30 miles over the speed limit. It is named for a Mississippi State University track athlete who was killed soon after she graduated in May 2017 by a state trooper who was speeding without lights flashing. The Mississippi Highway Patrol is paying $500,000 in a lawsuit filed by Kersh’s survivors and two women who were in the car with Kersh and were injured in the crash.

ALCOHOL IN DRY COUNTIES — House Bill 192 says people may carry unopened containers of alcohol, wine and beer through dry areas on a state or federal highway, without penalty.

DISTILLERIES — House Bill 995 allows visitors to buy alcohol directly from distilleries.

DOGFIGHTING — Senate Bill 2934 says people who promote, stage or bet on dogfights, own a dog with intent to enter it into a fight or own dogfighting paraphernalia could be sentenced to between one and five years in prison. Repeat offenses are punishable by fines of $5,000 to $10,000, and prison sentences of three to 10 years. Spectators could also face felony charges and fines, and up to a year in prison. Democratic Sen. Bob Dearing of Natchez filed the bill in response to a November bust of a dogfighting operation in his hometown.

POLICE DOGS — Senate Bill 2091 says ambulances may transport police dogs that are injured on duty, but only if there are no people requiring medical attention or transport at the time.

ISRAELI INVESTMENTS — Senate Bill 2051 says the Mississippi treasury may invest up to $20 million in bonds issued by Israel. The state may use excess general funds to invest in Israeli bonds. Investments must be made in U.S. currency. State treasury Chief of Staff Michelle Williams says the treasury invests most of its excess funds into state banks, then into the U.S. Treasury.