As we head into 2020, it’s important to be aware of what law changes are coming to Pennsylvania. While the laws we’ll be discussing went into effect in mid or late 2019, most people won’t notice their effects until 2020. The first laws we’ll look at involve how the state plans to better protect the rights of crime victims.
Protecting the Rights of Crime Victims
As a victim of a crime in Pennsylvania, you are afforded certain rights under the law. Those rights include the right to be reasonably protected from the accused, informed of any public court or parole proceedings, heard any at public proceedings, and informed about a plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement. Additional rights include the right to full and timely restitution, proceeding free from reasonable delay, and the right to be treated with fairness and respect.
To improve the protection of crime victims, the governor signed a number of new laws into effect. Signed in July 2019, victims of crimes are likely to see the impact of a number of new laws in 2020 and beyond. Six bills were signed to ensure and protect the rights of individuals victimized by criminals. Those bills include:
- SB 399. Senate Bill 399 updates the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act by requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to improve procedures for anonymous victims. Timelines for submitting, testing, and storing rape kits are to be implemented.
- SB 469. Senate Bill 469 protects victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder when they are questioned or testifying outside of the courtroom.
- SB 479. Senate Bill 479 expands the list of crimes a child under the age of 12 can use in an out-of-court statement.
- HB 315. House Bill 315 criminalizes female genital mutilation and classifies the act as a first-degree felony.
- HB 502. House Bill 502 amends the Crime Victims Act by allowing the victim to be present during criminal proceedings. Exceptions are made if the court determines the victim’s testimony would be altered by hearing additional witnesses.
- HB 504. House Bill 504 prevents prosecutors from using or mentioning a victim’s sexual history or prior sexual abuse allegations while prosecuting crimes.
Vehicle Fines for Inappropriate Class License
In PA, driver’s licenses are issued based on the class and type of vehicle you operate, according to Chapter 15 Licensing of Drivers. The license a driver has should match with the type of vehicle they drive. If this isn’t the case and a driver is pulled over, they can be fined. If convicted, the guilty driver would need to pay $200.
The fine is as high as it is to discourage drivers from operating vehicles they’re not equipped to drive or do not have the skills to drive. For example, if a person has a license to operate a standard passenger vehicle but decides to drive a tractor-trailer, they may be unaware of how the vehicles operate differently. As a result, a serious accident could occur, and unsuspecting victims could be injured or killed.
You can learn more about the new fine increase here.
Regulations on the Size of Farm Equipment
A farm vehicle is defined as a truck or truck tractor used exclusively for agricultural purposes. Common examples include cattle trucks, grain trucks, pick-up trucks, and tanker trucks. Farm vehicles, however, are not considered farm machinery or equipment.
The information on the size and weight limitations for farm trucks and truck tractors is found in Chapter 49 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Typically, a single vehicle cannot exceed a width of eight feet, six inches. Some exceptions apply to farm vehicles. In regard to height, vehicles cannot exceed 13 feet, six inches.
With farm equipment, however, farmers were previously allowed to operate farm equipment up to 16 feet wide on the roads. Bigger vehicles were only allowed with a permit. The regulations for the size of farm equipment recently changed, however, with the passing of the PA Farm Bill. Now, farm equipment up to 18-feet wide can travel on state roads. Vehicles of that size must carry an oversized load sign. This change was made to accommodate the size of modern equipment.
Let us know if you have questions about the new state laws going into effect. While we only discussed three, there are bound to be new laws and amendments made as 2020 progresses. We’ll be sure to stay up-to-date on all those changes, so we can provide our clients with the best representation possible. To learn more about the impacts of the 2020 law changes in Pennsylvania or to find out about personal injury law, contact us today.