Connecticut State Capitol Building
Connecticut State Capitol Building. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

New policies aimed at managing Connecticut’s growing black bear population, a prohibition on openly carrying firearms, and an option for prosecutors to require drivers contesting tickets to attend traffic safety education are all among a handful of laws going into effect next week. 

This Sunday marks the start of a new quarter and the effective date of several laws passed during the 2023 legislative session. 

Bear Management

Among the policies taking effect over the weekend is a legislative response to a growing number of conflicts between Connecticut residents and the state’s rising black bear population. Though lawmakers abandoned a proposal to implement a limited bear hunt in response to opposition from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, they did pass a bill aimed at curbing those encounters.

The new law generally prohibits intentionally feeding bears and other potentially dangerous animals like bobcats, foxes and coyotes. Feeding the animals will be punishable by fines ranging from $35 to $90 plus additional surcharges and fees. 

Meanwhile, the policy allows residents to use deadly force to kill bears attempting to harm a person or a pet or attempting to enter an occupied building. The new law also allows DEEP to issue permits to kill bears that damage or threaten to damage crops or farm animals if a property owner can first demonstrate that non-lethal tactics failed to deter the bear. 

Gun Policies

Several provisions of a broad new law on firearm policies will go into effect Sunday, including a prohibition on openly carrying a gun with the intent to display it in public. The ban on so-called “open carry,” was written to impact only intentional displays of firearms, according to proponents.

Other provisions taking effect Oct. 1 will raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle to 21 and limit consumers to purchasing three handguns during a 30-day period in an effort to crack down on straw purchases. The law includes exemptions to the cap on handgun purchases for licensed gun sellers, law enforcement agencies and others. 

Meanwhile, the law extends safe storage requirements that all firearms be stored in securely locked containers to all Connecticut gun owners. Previously, these requirements only applied to households where a minor or someone otherwise ineligible to possess a gun was present. 

Driver Safety 

With traffic-related deaths in Connecticut at their highest levels in decades, the legislature took a number of steps to improve roadway safety by adopting policies recommended by the state Vision Zero Council, a multiagency panel headed by the Department of Transportation commissioner. Some elements of the bill will take effect Sunday, including a new option for prosecutors to require drivers to attend traffic safety courses. 

The new policy will come into play when a driver receives a traffic citation and contests the infraction. Prosecutors will be permitted to require that driver to attend a course related to the violation they were accused of in an effort to resolve the citation.

Another new traffic policy taking effect requires the Transportation Department to ramp up efforts to curb wrong-way driving accidents by installing flashing light alert systems at 120 high-risk exit ramps.

Street Takeovers

Lawmakers adopted another new policy aimed at curbing so-called “street takeovers,” where motorists intentionally block traffic and occupy certain roadways while racing and performing stunts. 

The new law, which takes effect Sunday, prohibits anyone from acting to “incite or recruit” participants through means like posts on social media in advance of a street takeover. 

Parole Eligibility 

State law currently bars courts from sentencing people to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed up until their 18th birthday in recognition of scientific evidence that the brains of young people continue developing through their twenties. 

Beginning this weekend, Connecticut will extend that policy to offenders serving lengthy sentences for crimes they committed when they were younger than 21 years old as a result of a bill passed this session

Deceptive Police Tactics

Another new criminal justice policy taking effect will make confessions from juvenile suspects largely inadmissible in Connecticut courts if police obtained the admissions using deceptive tactics like lying or misrepresenting evidence. 

Like most other states, Connecticut previously allowed police to present false information during interrogations, a practice affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969. The new law sees Connecticut join states like Illinois and Oregon in taking steps to prohibit deceptive interviews of minor suspects.

Space Force

Effective Oct. 1, Connecticut will include the U.S. Space Force in its official definition of armed forces in order to ensure that veterans of the new agency are eligible for benefits extended to servicemembers of other military forces.