Laws have a tendency to change as years go by. Times change, people change ... it seems everything changes. With that in mind, laws need to be amended or enacted to address our current situation.

There were many new laws that went into effect this year that you may not be aware of.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I advise you of some of the more interesting law changes that happened, or went into effect, in 2020.

(This contains excerpts from the MSP legal update.)

MICHIGAN MAIL AND MAIL DEPOSITORY PROTECTION ACT

We have all heard the old adage that it is a "federal crime" to damage a mailbox. As this will hopefully scare kids from playing mailbox baseball, I have never seen a case when the feds came in over a beat up mailbox. This is always handled on the local level.

With that being said, it is also a violation of federal law to make entry into the mail receptacle of another or remove mail that does not belong to you. Michigan has now added to that with a new law on the state level.

Public Act 48 of 2019 enacted the Mail and Mail Depository Protection Act (MMDPA), which creates a new crime relating to the theft of mail addressed to another person.

Definitions:

• "Mail" means a letter, postal card, package, bag, or anything contained therein, or other sealed article addressed to a person.

• "Person" includes an individual and a legal entity, such as a partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or association.

Prohibited Conduct: A person shall not take, hold, conceal, or destroy mail addressed to another person with the intent to defraud any person or deprive the person to whom the mail was addressed, of the mail. It does not matter whether the person whose mail is obtained, or attempted to be obtained, is alive or deceased when the violation occurs.

First offense is punishable as a one-year misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation is punishable as a five-year felony.

MICHIGAN YOUTH TOBACCO ACT

This basically establishes electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), or related electronic vaping products containing tobacco, as illegal for minors to possess. In essence making them regulated the same as normal cigarettes.

Public Act 17 and Public Act 18 of 2019 amended the Youth Tobacco Act (YTA) to regulate sales and possession of "alternative nicotine products," "vapor products," and "liquid nicotine containers" involving minors.

"MCL 722.644 states:

(4)(a) "Alternative nicotine product" means a noncombustible product containing nicotine that is intended for human consumption, whether chewed, absorbed, dissolved, or ingested by any other means. Alternative nicotine product does not include a tobacco product, a vapor product ...

(4)(h) "Vapor product" means a noncombustible product that employs a heating element, power source, electronic circuit, or other electronic, chemical, or mechanical means, regardless of shape or size, that can be used to produce vapor from nicotine or any other substance, and the use or inhalation of which simulates smoking..."

Minor possession, use, or purchase prohibited:

A minor shall not do any of the following with respect to "alternative nicotine products" and "vapor products:"

-- Purchase or attempt to purchase.

-- Possess or attempt to possess.

-- Use in a public place.

-- Present or offer false, fraudulent, or someone else's proof of age to purchase, possess, or attempt to purchase or possess.

A minor who is in violation is responsible for a civil infraction. After two or more prior judgments, each subsequent violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50.00 for each violation.

FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG AND COSMETIC ACT

On Dec. 20, 2019, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act "smoking amendment" (aka T21) was signed into law, raising the federal minimum age for the sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years.

The "T21" law applies to the sales of the most common tobacco products which include: cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, electropuff nicotine systems including e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

So, the "T21" law only pertains to the "sale" of tobacco, and does not address the "possession" of someone under 21. That is where we would fall back on the state law, however if it is illegal to sell to a minor it is assumed it is also illegal to possess. There is argument that a vaping product that does not contain nicotine or tobacco would not fall under the "T21" provision.

CAGE FREE EGG LAW

Chickens now get to hang out like other farm animals, now being able to socialize with other chickens. By 2025, egg-laying hens must be housed in cage-free areas. Michigan is the fifth to enact this law.

MCL 287.746 states:

"(1)(b) 'Cage-free housing system' means an indoor or outdoor controlled environment for egg-laying hens to which all of the following apply:

(i) For an indoor environment, the hens are free to roam unrestricted except by any of the following:

(A) Exterior walls.

(B) In multitiered aviaries, partially slatted systems, single-level all-litter floor systems,... if farm employees can walk through each contained or subdivided area to provide care to hens and if each hen has the minimum amount of usable floor space...

(ii) The hens are provided enrichments that allow the hens to exhibit natural behaviors...scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas..."

AUTO INSURANCE REFORM

Since 1973, all Michigan automobile insurance policies had to provide "unlimited" Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. This is no longer the case. You have the option of changing from "unlimited" payout plans, to plans that have a top-out or a limit on your PIP, or to opt-out of PIP all together. Those who have health insurance may find this as a better option.

Michigan has the fourth most expensive auto insurance in the country, with about 20% of drivers uninsured.

NEW GAMBLING LAWS

• Lawful Internet Gaming Act: An act that allows the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to issue licenses for online and mobile games to be offered by licensed Detroit or Tribal casinos if the applicants meet certain criteria. This allows for casino games to be offered online or on mobile devices.

• Lawful Sports Betting Act: An act which legalizes sports betting in casinos, online, and through mobile devices. This specifies that an internet sports betting wager received by a sports betting operator or its internet sports betting platform provider would be considered gambling or gaming that was conducted in the sports betting operator's casino located in Michigan.

• Fantasy Contests Consumer Protection Act: An act that establishes the legal framework to regulate fantasy sports contests within the state. It allows for both paid contests at a commercial level and private contests that meet certain criteria.

CARRYING A FIREARM WHILE WEARING A MASK

A day seldom goes by without a community member asking me the question of whether it is illegal to wear a mask while carrying a firearm in public. The answer is no, it is not a crime.

MCL 750.396 states:

"A person who intentionally conceals his or her identity by wearing a mask or other device covering his or her face for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a crime is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both."

Consequently, a person legally carrying a firearm while wearing a face mask who is not facilitating the commission of a crime is NOT subject to the legal penalties for wearing a face mask in Michigan.

This information is provided to you for clarification of specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.