Attorney General’s Legislative Priorities Continue to Advance
March 9, 2015
As the legislature continues its work after a mid-session break, a number of legislative priorities from Attorney General Tim Fox and the Montana Department of Justice have already been signed into law by the governor. The others continue to move through the process with broad bi-partisan support.
“Our legislators have been working long hours every day doing the people’s business, and they deserve the gratitude of every Montanan,” Fox said. “I am delighted they have worked together across party lines to pass many of the important public-safety and privacy-protection measures my office brought forward.”
Improving Montana’s DUI laws (HB 488, Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell). The bill doubles the minimum fines for DUI convictions, creates a $300 fine for offenders who refuse a breath test, closes loopholes that allow some repeat offenders to face minimal punishment, and generally improves the consistency and cohesiveness of Montana’s DUI laws.
Creating a sexual assault prosecution unit in the Attorney General’s Office (HB 75, Rep. Stephanie Hess, R-Havre). To improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault crimes, this bill would statutorily establish a special team within the Montana Department of Justice’s Prosecution Services Bureau focused on prosecuting sex assault crimes directly and training county attorneys.
Strengthening Montana’s human trafficking laws (HB 89, Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula). This bill would bring Montana’s anti-trafficking laws into conformity with the model Human Trafficking Act. It would establish and strengthen definitions in state law as well and clarify penalties for those found guilty of human trafficking.
Improving Montana’s sexual offender registry (HB 88, Rep. Sarah Laszloffy, R-Laurel). As part of Attorney General Fox’s long-term strategy for reducing the number of sexual offenders who lack a tier designation, this bill would place more of the tier-designation burden for out-of-state and federal offenders on the offenders themselves. The bill would also require registered offenders to disclose email addresses and online social media screen names to law enforcement, and would require a tier-1 (lowest risk) offender to register for 15 years (currently 10 years) before they could petition for removal from the registry.
Protecting privacy by criminalizing the misuse of official confidential criminal justice information (HB 32, Rep. Kirk Wagoner, R-Montana City). To help protect an individual’s constitutional privacy rights, this bill would establish misdemeanor penalties for those who access confidential criminal justice information for unauthorized purposes or disseminate such information to unauthorized parties.
Requiring data breach notifications to the Attorney General’s Office (HB 74, Rep. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte). This bill would require any company doing business in Montana to report data breaches to the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Such notice would give the Attorney General’s Office a better sense of the scope of identity theft in Montana and would help identify some businesses that have lax security practices.
Prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes to minors (SB 66, Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula). This bill would prohibit sales and possession of electronic cigarettes to minors.
Updating laws on surreptitious viewing (SB 50, Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls). Because Montana’s current laws regarding the surreptitious viewing/recording of another person do not take into account members of the public recording others through cell phone cameras and other means made possible by technological advances, this bill would update state law to allow for more effective prosecution.
Toughening laws against indecent exposure to a minor (SB 60, Sen. Robyn Driscoll, D-Billings). Currently, first offense indecent exposure in Montana is a misdemeanor regardless of who the victim is. This bill would felonize the knowing or purposeful exposure of the person’s genitals, including through electronic communications, to a person the offender believes to be under the age of 16 in order to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade the child or for purposes of sexual gratification.
Protecting Montanans from patent trolling (SB 39, Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings). This bill would create penalties for those who engage in patent trolling, which is when a person or business acquires patents not for the purpose of developing products but with the sole purpose of suing, intimidating, and/or extorting supposed infringers. Over the past several years, an increasing number of small businesses in Montana have been victimized by patent trolls.
Requiring electronic reporting of pseudoephedrine sales (SB 48, Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby). To combat the manufacture of methamphetamine, this bill would require businesses selling pseudoephedrine to electronically report sales to the Montana Department of Justice. Currently, businesses only have to maintain records of sales at their stores.
Allowing law enforcement to obtain search warrants electronically (SB 26, Sen. Nels Swandal, R-Wilsall). This bill would clarify the law to allow officers who have internet access in their patrol cars or offices to create affidavits in support of a search warrant and submit it to a judge via an email request. The judge could review the affidavit and either deny or issue the warrant. This would save valuable investigation time and help officers collect and preserve evidence more quickly.