From marijuana to 'sexting': new laws set to take effect Jan. 1

2. Crime

Crime is always a focus of state lawmakers, but this year saw an emphasis on reining in the potentially harmful uses of new technologies and social media.

“The rise in social media-related regulations shows that private sector innovations are often followed by laws intended to limit the harmful effects of those innovations,” says Jessica Levinson, an analyst at the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

California’s SB 1411 will make online impersonation a standard misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Victims will be allowed to sue the imitator for damages and losses. Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts and Texas also have laws targeting electronic impersonation.

• In Illinois, minors who distribute indecent photos of other minors electronically – known as “sexting” -- may be taken into custody by law enforcement officers and are subject to adjudication or supervision, instead of being charged with child pornography, which is a harsher offense.

• Also in Illinois, it’s now a crime to sexually exploit a child using a computer or Internet-based software. “The new law is aimed at catching sex offenders who use Internet chat rooms or online video cameras to engage in sex acts with a child,” says the NCSL’s website analysis.

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