State laws: What’s new

By Eleanor Black

Cigarette butts are now considered litter

Strict littering penalties will be in place for those who toss their cigarette butts. Another recent law fines litter violations a minimum of $50.

A first time violation will now be considered a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,500, while a second violation will become a Class A misdemeanor. A third offense could lead to jail time ranging from one to three years and a $25,000 fine. Violators may also have to clean up litter on a public highway for a month-long period.

Speed limit change

Starting in 2014, the maximum speed limit on tollways and interstate highways outside of urban areas will be raised from 65 mph to 70 mph. Illinois’ eight urban counties — Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will — have the option to opt out. Though the law went into effect on Jan. 1, the speed limit in a particular area does not change until the speed limit road sign is changed.

No cell phone use while driving

If Illinois drivers want to talk, they must now use now use hands-free technology to do so, though exceptions will be made in emergency cases. Such cases include reporting an emergency situation or communicating with emergency personnel during such a situation. Violation of the law will result in fines starting at $75 for first offenses, $100 for second offenses, $125 for third and $150 for fourth and subsequent offenses.

Medical marijuana

Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana, though the legalization came with strict regulations and a waiting period attached. Within the four-year pilot program, a person cannot be prescribed more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana over a period of two weeks, and the prescribing doctor must have a treatment history with the patient. Additionally, the medical marijuana can only be purchased through one of the 60 state-regulated dispensing centers.

Though the law went into effect on Jan. 1, the agencies overseeing the program have 120 days to establish its rules. This means that those interested in obtaining medical marijuana may have to wait until later this year — or longer – to apply.

Concealed carry

Illinois has also become the final state to allow concealed firearms to be carried in public.

Concealed carry license applications went live on Sunday, Jan. 5, and over 11,000 applicants were accepted. Carriers must be at least 21 years old and have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card, 16 hours of concealed carry firearms training and other requirements, to be eligible for a license.

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected].