Several new laws took effect this month, including one that cracks down on driving under the influence and others that expand the hours of operation for liquor stores and allow for the sale of beer at farmers’ markets.
Penalties for those found to have violated the state’s drunk driving laws are shifting away from graduated license suspensions for repeat offenders toward the use of a dashboard breathalyzer for anyone caught in the act.
State statute now requires an across-the-board, 45-day license suspension per violation followed by the use of an ignition interlock system for a certain period of time. The system is installed on the dashboard of a car and requires the driver to breathe into it. If the device detects a blood alcohol content above the prescribed limit, the car will not start.
A first-time offender with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more is required to use the device for 90 days, while someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.16 percent or more must use it for 120 days. Anyone who refuses to take a blood, breath, or urine test will have to use the dashboard breathalyzer for six months.
The duration of the ignition interlock requirement increases with each offense, up to 3 years.
If a driver who has had his or her license permanently revoked after the third offense successfully petitions the Department of Motor Vehicles to have driving privileges restored, an ignition interlock system must be used for life. The lifetime installation of the device can be appealed after 15 years.
• Expanded hours for alcohol sales — Alcohol may now be sold in package stores, drug stores, and grocery stores for an extra hour each day. That means people can buy beer, wine, or liquor until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 6 p.m. on Sunday. The 10 p.m. extension also applies to wineries, farmers’ market wine sales, and nonprofit golf tournaments.
• Farmers’ market beer sales — With respect to beer at farmers’ markets, the law establishes a farmers’ market beer permit allowing the holder to sell his or her wares at up to three locations per year on an unlimited number of occasions. The beer must be sold in sealed containers and be consumed off the premises.
• Growlers — Further, restaurants and bars will now be able to send patrons home with jugs of draught beer known as “growlers.” Each customer is limited to four liters of beer per day. Sales must be confined to the same newly-expanded hours that apply to liquor stores.
Changes for students
Several new laws focus on the health, safety, and education of students.
• Childhood vaccinations — New restrictions on religious exemptions involve a notary public in the process of opting out of the state’s immunization requirements. Families must now provide any public school, private school, or daycare provider with a notarized statement that the vaccination violates the religious beliefs of the parents or child.
• Restraint, seclusion and suspension — Two separate laws address secluding children within a school and expelling students from school grounds. The first bill prevents school staff from using physical restraint on students or putting them in isolation except in emergencies. It also establishes training and reporting guidelines for teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators. The other law forbids schools from expelling students in preschool through grade two. There are exceptions for children who act in a violent or sexual way that endangers others and those who bring a gun to school or sell drugs.
• Treatment of sexual assault for higher education students — Sexual assault victims at the college level may now be treated on-campus instead of going to the nearest hospital for specialized care. Certified examiners, who are trained to provide medical care and to collect forensic evidence, may now see patients at any health center operated by a college or university and licensed through the Department of Public Health.
• Making student loans more affordable — Students and families who borrow money through the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority are now able to refinance their loans through the agency as well. The agency is offering a 4.95 percent fixed-rate loan for the 2015-16 school year, which is down from the previous 6.75 percent rate.