New laws on the books in Mississippi

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2018

July 1 is a magical time in Mississippi; it’s the time when new laws passed by the Legislature go into effect in the state, and this year is no different.

Some of these new bills will have an immediate effect on a lot of people in the state, while some will only apply to a very few people. All of them will eventually be revised in later legislative sessions.

One of the new or revised laws that went into effect July 1 restricts when a person can travel in the left lane on multi-lane highways, setting a fine of from $5 to $50 for violations.

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Under the new law, drivers should only use the left lane for passing, unless the right lane is closed, is in disrepair or is otherwise impassable. Drivers can also use the left lane for a left-hand turn or left exit.

Another law prohibits judges from sentencing people to jail if they failed to pay fines they could not afford, eliminating what some critics have said established a “debtor’s prison” in Mississippi, and lowers some penalties. Law also requires Mississippi officials to study sentencing disparities and juvenile detention.

Another bill signed into law, Senate Bill 2934, sets stiffer penalties for people who promote, stage or bet on dogfights, own a dog with intent to enter it into a fight or own dogfighting paraphernalia. The law sets a penalty of between one and five years in prison, and repeat offenses 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. The bill faced criticism from animal rights activists, who wanted stiffer penalties for dog fighting.

Other bills taking effect included:

• The “Kaelin Kersh Act,” which requires emergency vehicles, including law enforcement, to use their lights when going 30 miles over the speed limit.

The law 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.

• Another bill signed into law, 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, while another, House Bill 995, allows visitors to buy alcohol directly from distilleries.