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Editorial: New laws in effect in Tennessee and Virginia

Editorial Board • Jul 6, 2020 at 10:30 PM

A new law that took effect July 1 allows children to operate lemonade stands in Tennessee. In Virginia, a new law limits the fine for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to $25. Those are just two of a handful of new laws you should know about.

Tennessee lawmakers banned counties and municipalities from requiring a license, fee, permit or any other kind of regulation for a business solely operated by a person under 18, located on private property with the owner’s consent, and that grosses $3,000 or less in a year. Lemonade stands have been childhood staples for generations, yet only a handful of states prohibit restrictions on them. Tennessee has now joined those states.

Virginia hasn’t fully decriminalized marijuana, but punishment for simple possession has been reduced from up to 30 days in jail and fines of $500 to a $25 fine. Possession citations under the new law can still be contested, and convictions do not go on a person’s criminal record. If acquitted of a simple possession charge, the person can also file to have the arrest and court record expunged.

New laws now in effect in Tennessee ban use of hand-held mobile phones while driving with fines up to $200. The only way you may talk on a phone while driving is if you use an earpiece, headphone device, device worn on a wrist, or have your phone synced with your car so it is hands free.

The Tennessee Sports Gaming Act allows online sports gambling while prohibiting gambling in physical locations. Another law decriminalizes wagers on fantasy sports leagues and sports pools under certain circumstances.

Tennessee death penalty appeals have been expedited by removing one layer of the process, bypassing the Court of Criminal Appeals and sending cases directly to the state Supreme Court.

Another Tennessee law removes a $180 fee for individuals petitioning for expunctions of certain criminal offenses and removes a $350 fee for a defendant applying for expunction of an offense after they complete a diversion program.

And new Tennessee laws extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, giving victims more time to pursue legal action; prohibit dropping anything from a drone into an event where 100 or more people are gathered; ban a marriage license for anyone under age 17; and prohibit a person from loitering or “conducting any commercial activity” in or close to the median of a state highway.

Virginia has made Election Day in November a state holiday, prohibited drivers from holding a mobile phone, and banned smoking in a vehicle when children under age 8 are present. Driver’s licenses can no longer be suspended for nonpayment of fines and costs. The age at which juveniles can be tried as adults has increased from 14 to 16 years, and fornication and profane swearing in public will no longer be crimes. If you are under 18, you cannot use a tanning bed or lamp with ultraviolet light — spray tanning only.

Virginia also enacted a package of laws dealing with guns, including that background checks on buyers at all gun shows in Virginia are mandatory; persons applying for concealed weapons permits must complete competence training in person and not online; persons other than licensed firearms dealers may purchase no more than one handgun in a 30-day period; and localities can declare ordnance zones where firearms, ammunition or components are prohibited.

Agree or disagree with the laws, it’s for certain some of these new laws will help ease the burden on the courts. For that we are appreciative.

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