LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Hundreds of new state laws are set to take effect this week and it’s all the product of this year’s work by the Kentucky General Assembly.
Several will be affecting the legal and criminal justice landscape of the state. Many of these new laws will enhance the penalty for some severe crimes or close loopholes that were exploited, however, some also take steps the law less strict.
Starting with protecting kids: Kami’s Law makes abuse of a child under 12 punishable by 10 to 20 years. The law was championed by an Oldham County seventh-grader. A bill by Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) requires a blood or urine test if police suspect a parent or caregiver of being under the influence when a child dies suspiciously.
“If a person declines the request, then it’s up to the law enforcement officer to seek a search warrant if probable cause exists,” Carroll said to the House Judiciary Committee in March.
Several bills enhance penalties for some crimes including raising them to a felony. Sen. David Yates (D-Louisville) tackled the issue of porch pirates with Senate Bill 23.
“The way we drafted our statute forty years ago – Kentucky specifically mentioned United States Postal Service – other states it wasn’t so narrow the courts interpreted that to exclude some of the Amazon, FedEx, things we see today,” Yates said in the same March meeting.
“Swatting” is now also a felony, a practice commonly seen online when someone makes a fake phone call to police to target someone else. Rep. Phillip Pratt (R-Georgetown) filed the bill after a close call in his community.
“The Scott County Sheriff took this situation where someone made a fake 911 call, said they basically killed their family, was holding hostages. They realized something was wrong, they defused it very quickly,” Pratt said in a committee meeting in March.
Jail time will also be harsher on crimes such as incest and those that happen in an emergency or natural disaster. But not every law was about making the criminal justice system tougher, Senate Bill 90 offers possibilities for alternate sentences for minor offenders in favor of access to mental healthcare.
“Everyone agrees these folks could benefit from this care and I think if they get involved in this care and I think if they get involved in this care they may stop being justice involved individuals,” bill sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) told FOX 56 in April.
For now, the bill is just limited to pilot programs in various counties. House Bill 269 also extends protections to mentally ill criminals to make them no longer eligible for the death penalty if they had symptoms when the crime happened.
“It in no way absolves defendants of legal responsibilities for their crimes, they can still be tried convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms including life without parole Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) said during debate in March.
Another law worth mentioning is House Bill 206. That will prevent anyone convicted of a sex crime, even a misdemeanor, from serving in law enforcement.
All laws not already in effect due to an emergency clause will take effect on Thursday. See a full breakdown of the incoming state education laws here