Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How New State Laws Affect Ojai

By Sondra Murphy
Several new state laws went into effect as of July 1 that may impact our daily lives. Most have to do with traffic, but a few venture into other arenas.
Markets are now required to collect, label and recycle plastic grocery bags. Bags must display that they are recyclable to avoid any doubt in the mind of the consumer. Besides recycling plastic bags, stores statewide are required to offer reusable bags. Since Ojai markets already have such procedures in place, the impact is minimal.
“The only thing that affects us is the trash cans at the front of the store to put bags in,” said Starr Market owner Terry Starr. “It’s more work. We have to keep a record for three years, so it’s more paperwork for us. I don’t know how many people are going to use the bins. I think most people reuse the bags in their trash cans at home.”
Health clubs are now required to keep automated external defibrillators on site. The heart-starting machines range in cost from $1,000 to $4,000, so it is a significant investment for an exercise facility.
“We’ve known it’s been coming for a long time,” said Bryant Street Health & Fitness Center owner Tressa Kahler. The defibrillator requires a short training by a person certified in CPR, who then performs in-house staff trainings on using the unit. “It’s really easy to use,” Kahler said. “It tells you exactly what to do.”
Kahler said that everyone at the fitness center has to know CPR and first aid techniques and only those certified in CPR may operate the defibrillator. Kahler said she researched a lot of models and checked with the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association for recommendations. “You want to make sure it works. You don’t want to get something that’s the cheapest that won’t work.”
Don’s Gym owner, Don Williams, is not certain the financial burden is a fair one for small facilities like his. “The difference between the amount of people in the course of the day that come into my gym vs. a 50,000-square-foot gym is significant,” said Williams. “I’ve been here 27 years and have only had three people give me symptoms to worry about. I got them to the hospital just fine.”
Williams said that he can understand the motivation behind the defibrillation law, but said, “You’ve got to pay some large money for the equipment.”
Stricter enforcement of carpool lane use, incorrect lane changes and passengers over 18 who do not secure their seat belts while the vehicle is in motion are newly on the books. Now, drivers and passengers will both be ticketed for seat belt infractions.
State laws have also been modified for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. First-time offenders may expect to spend at least 96 hours in jail for a DUI conviction and the time could be as long as four months, depending on other factors of the arrest. Additionally, there are fines, driver’s license suspension, driving school and DMV penalties.
According to Ojai attorney Paul Blatz, Ventura County may continue to allow work release to count as some of those hours. Blatz has not yet represented a client on a DUI arrest since July 1, so was uncertain as to how the county will handle the modifications to the statute. Court prosecution of DUI offenders vary by county and depending on blood-alcohol levels. “Previously, a person’s first DUI resulted in a four-month license suspension, of which 30 days has to be absolute suspension,” Blatz told OVN. “For three of those months, a person can receive a restricted license.” A restricted license allows driving to and from work and drunk driving school only.
“That suspension period goes up with the degree of alcohol in your system,” said Blatz. “If it’s greater than .20, then your driver’s license is suspended for 10 months.” In Ventura County, there are additional penalties for greater blood-alcohol levels. “Even for first time DUI offenders with levels of concentration at .15 or above, the court can order you to have an interlock device put into your car.” This device has a type of breathalyzer to measure sobriety before the car will start.
Blatz explained that there are two paragraphs in the drunk driving statute, 23152, from which law enforcement choose when prosecuting chemically impaired drivers. “The ‘a’ paragraph states that it is illegal for anybody to drive on the streets of California if they are impaired to the state that they are unsafe. Paragraph ‘b’ states it’s a crime to get behind the wheel at .08 or above, even if you’re not necessarily impaired.”

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