Thursday, June 29, 2006

Massachusetts Tough on Fireworks

The Department of Fire Services reminds us once again that all fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts without a license. Their brochure, Be Smart: Leave Fireworks to the Professionals, contains frightening statistics about the number of burn injuries caused by fireworks, as well as the reminder that buying fireworks from out of state via the Internet is also prohibited. The applicable laws can be found in MGL c.148, s.39-45, and the Dept. also has a summary of the law on their site. Fireworks regulations for professionals, the Manufacturing, Storage, Transportation and Use of Fireworks, are at 527 CMR 2.

Friday, June 16, 2006

House Passes Amended Teen Driving Bill

Yesterday the House overwhelmingly passed a less controversial version of the teen driving bill, H4826 (with amendments), by a vote of 140-5. We'll post the bill as amended when we get our hands on it, but in the meantime, here are the highlights:
  • The minimum age to get a license will not be increased, but will remain 16-1/2
  • Minimum number of behind-the-wheel hours in drivers' ed will increase from 6 to 12
  • Minimum number of hours driving with a parent or guardian will increase from 12 to 40
  • Parents must participate in at least 2 hours of the required 30 hours of drivers' ed in the classroom
  • A first offense for speeding at least 10 miles an hour over the speed limit will result in a 90-day license suspension for junior operators; a second offense carries a one-year suspension
For more information, see The Republican.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Police Stops Limited

In Commonwealth v. DePeiza, the Massachusetts Appeals Court Friday limited the circumstances in which police officers may stop and frisk individuals walking down the street. The case centered on a man who was stopped walking through Dorchester with one arm held stiffly, a posture police believed suggested he was carrying a concealed weapon. The man was stopped and frisked and a weapon was found. The opinion says, in part, "According to the Commonwealth, the defendant's walk, coupled with his subsequent nervousness, avoiding of eye contact, shifting from side to side, and shielding of his right jacket pocket (which contained a heavy object) from the officers' view, created a reasonable suspicion that he was carrying a concealed firearm and was not licensed to do so. We disagree. " "Prior to encountering the defendant, the officers had neither observed nor received any report of criminal activity, a firearm being brandished, or shots being fired." "His activities do not take on a sinister cast merely because the street on which he is walking is located in Dorchester.""An individual's manner of walking, like his hairstyle or clothing, is by itself too idiosyncratic to serve as the basis for a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity."

According to the Boston Globe, "Boston police officials...vigorously disagreed with the appeal court's ruling and said that for the time being they will not alter their methods of street policing. Superintendent Robert Dunford said the decision was divorced from the realities of the streets."

More information on this and other police procedure issues is available at Mass. Law About Criminal Procedure.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Driving Age Debate Postponed

The large number of amendments to the driving bill that we mentioned yesterday were an indication of growing opposition to raising the driving age to 17-1/2, and minutes before debate was to begin, it was postponed. According to the Boston Globe, "The age hike was part of a larger proposal to overhaul teenage driving laws. The rest of the package -- beefing up driver's education, increasing parent-supervised driving, and toughening penalties for violations of junior operator's licenses -- remains intact. It has been rescheduled for a House vote on June 14. The other provisions in the bill have more widespread support, lawmakers said."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Driver's License Debate

The House begins debate today on H4826, the proposed law we mentioned last week which would increase the minimum age to receive a driver's license from 16-1/2 to 17-1/2. The bill has already been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. Proposed amendments are available on the legislature's site (all 101 pages of them!). To contact your legislator to express your views on this bill, see Senators and Representatives by City and Town. If you would like to attend a session in person, see Lawmaking in Massachusetts for information.