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DMV announces new laws for the new year

No cell-phone texting while driving among the laws to take effect Jan. 1

Posted: December 23, 2008 9:12 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2008 4:55 a.m.

The Department of Motor Vehicles reminded motorists of several new laws effective in 2009.

Among the legislation was AB2241, which limits the issuance of temporary operating permits to those with vehicles yet to pass a smog check.

The law called for a $50 fee for one 60-day temporary operating permit only if the vehicle was tested at a smog station and failed.

"This new law ensures that vehicles on our highways are properly registered and maintained," said DMV Director George Valverde. "We also support efforts to reduce emissions which keep Californians healthy."

In the past, owners were able to secure a temporary operating permit for 60 days or more if, after paying their renewal fees on time, they were unable to obtain a smog certificate.

Currently, the continued operation of vehicles that do not meet California's smog test requirements is estimated to be emitting one to two tons per day of hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.

Another law taking effect in 2009 is SB28, which coincides with the cell-phone law of 2007 and prohibits text messaging with a cell phone or other text-based communications while driving a vehicle.

In all, 1,187 bills were passed and 772 were signed into law, including more than 80 changes to the Vehicle Code during the 2008 legislative year.

Some of the other changes included fee increases to improve air quality, DUI penalties and a new special-interest license plate take effect on Jan. 1.

Following is an abbreviated summary of the new laws that will take effect Jan. 1 unless indicated otherwise.
A more comprehensive list appears on the DMV Web site at

* Unlicensed Car Dealers (AB 2042/Fuentes). This new law allows law enforcement officers to impound vehicles that are being sold by unlicensed dealers.

* Counterfeit Clean Air Stickers (SB 1720/Lowenthal). This new law will make it a crime to forge, counterfeit or falsify a Clean Air Sticker. These stickers are currently issued by DMV to certain low-emission vehicles and permit vehicles with these stickers to be driven in the HOV lane.

* Text Messaging (SB 28/Simitian). This new law makes it an infraction to write, send or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, while driving.

* DUI Probation License Suspension (AB 1165 Maze). A change in the driving under the influence (DUI) law creates a new authority for DMV to administratively suspend the driver's license for one year under a zero-tolerance standard. The new law authorizes law enforcement to issue a notice of suspension and impound the vehicle of a person who is driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or greater while on court-ordered post-DUI probation.

* Temporary Operating Permits (AB2241/Saldana) This law restricts DMV from issuing temporary operating permits to allow more time to obtain a smog certificate as part of the registration renewal process. Under the law, extensions will cost $50 and are only allowed if the vehicle has been tested at a smog station and failed. The extension can be for no more than 60 days from the registration due date. The $50 fee will be waived for owners accepted into the Bureau of Automotive Repair Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).

* San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Fee (AB 2522/Arambula). In an effort to fund programs to reduce vehicle emissions, vehicle owners who register their vehicles in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties and valley portions of Kern County will be assessed an air quality fee of $6.

* New Special Interest Plate (SB 1455/Cogdill). A new "Gold Star Family" special interest license will be available to family members of individuals killed in the line of duty while serving in the Armed Forces during wartime or military operations.

* Motorcycle Definition (AB 2272/Fuentes). This new law changes the definition of a motorcycle, deleting the existing weight limitation of 1,500 pounds. It also removes a separate definition for electrically-powered vehicles. This change in law will also allow drivers of fully-enclosed three-wheeled motor vehicles to use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

To easily access the California Vehicle Code for further information, log on to the DMV Web site at and click on the "Publications" button in the upper left hand corner of the home page.


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