PA 07-246—sHB 7269

Public Safety and Security Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING CRIMINAL HISTORY BACKGROUND CHECKS, CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, REPEATED FALSE ALARMS, THE DESTRUCTION OF SEIZED FIREWORKS, AMUSEMENT PATRONS' SAFETY AND ASSESSOR'S DRAWINGS

SUMMARY: This act makes several unrelated changes affecting State Police response to false alarms, amusement rider safety, defendants' access to child pornography in criminal proceedings, criminal history record checks, disposal of seized fireworks, and information that property tax assessors may make publicly available.

The act:

1. establishes fines, with certain exceptions, for state police response to repeated false alarms in buildings where state police are expected to respond, ranging from $25 for the fourth offense in a calendar year to $100 for the seventh and subsequent offenses;

2. requires amusement patrons to obey patron safety regulations, requires amusement ride owners to post notices of the requirement, and allows security guards and law enforcement officers to detain patrons for violations;

3. limits the type of access defendants in criminal proceedings have to child pornography material in state custody;

4. allows the public safety commissioner to adopt regulations to implement the criminal history record check provisions of one state and three federal laws;

5. requires courts to order that seized illegal fireworks be photographed, inventoried, described in a sworn affidavit, and then destroyed, instead of being held pending final case disposition; and

6. specifies that the law requiring property tax assessors to make certain records available for public inspection does not authorize them to post on the Internet or otherwise publish the plans or drawings of a dwelling unit of a residential property's interior.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

STATE POLICE RESPONSE TO FALSE ALARMS

Definitions

Alarm System. The act defines an “alarm system” as an assembly of equipment and devices arranged to signal the presence of a hazard, such as unauthorized entry, an attempted robbery, or fire or smoke, requiring urgent attention and to which state police are expected to respond. It includes holdup, burglar, audible, and fire alarms. It does not mean a system that monitors temperature or designed solely for medical emergency notification.

False Alarm. A false alarm means activation of any alarm system, including activations off the protected property and within the control of a subscriber, his or her alarm business, or his or her answering service, to which state police respond. It does not include activations caused by fire, criminal acts, emergencies, or acts of nature such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or storms.

Fines

The act imposes fines on alarm system subscribers for emergency police response to false alarms. It exempts state, municipal, and federal buildings from such fines.

It defines a “subscriber” as anyone who buys, leases, or otherwise acquires an alarm system and installs it or has it installed. This includes anyone who controls the premises where an operable system is located. If the subscriber is not the owner of the property where the alarm system is located, the police officer must notify the property owner of the second false alarm.

The act requires that fines be automatically waived for the first three false alarms in a calendar year. After that, the fines for each calendar year are as follows: fourth alarm, $25; fifth alarm, $50; sixth alarm, $75; seventh and subsequent alarms, $100. The act gives a subscriber notified of a fine seven days to appeal to the State Police, which must (1) review the appeal to determine if the circumstances justify waiving the fines and (2) notify the subscriber of the decision in writing.

Fines are payable to the State Police and due within 30 days after the notification date or, in cases of appeal, 30 days after the date of the decision. The penalty for failing to pay by the deadline is a fine of up to $200.

The State Police must use the fines to pay for the administrative costs of administering the false alarm program and for training and educational material.

AMUSEMENT RIDES

Patron Safety Regulations

Existing law defines “amusement” as (1) any circus or carnival presented in the open, including a place where rides that normally require an operator's supervision are presented for amusement or entertainment and (2) any circus, carnival, or other portable show or exhibition presented under any single tent, air-supported plastic or fabric or other portable shelter, and involving the assembly of 100 or more people (excluding inflatable devices leased for private residential use).

Prior law authorized the public safety commissioner to adopt regulations pertaining to an amusement license. The act instead requires the commissioner to adopt regulations and implies that they must include patron safety regulations. It requires patrons of any amusement or public amusement park to obey patron safety regulations the commissioner adopts.

Posted Signs

The act requires owners of amusement rides or devices to post signs displaying the following written statement, at a minimum, in letters at least two inches high:

State law requires patrons to obey all posted signs, warnings and instructions and to behave in a manner that will not cause or contribute to the injury of themselves or others. Injured patrons or their adult guardians must report all injuries to management before leaving. Disorderly conduct is punishable by up to a $500 fine and up to three months imprisonment.

The owner must post the signs, in accordance with the patron safety regulations, at any first aid or injury reporting stations and (1) at the facility's patron entrance or exit or (2) anywhere patrons buy admission tickets or get authorization to use an amusement ride or device.

Enforcement

The act allows security guards and law enforcement officers to detain patrons of an amusement (presumably of a public amusement park as well) for a reasonable time (which the act does not define) in order to summon a police officer if the guard or officer has reasonable cause to believe they violated the patron safety regulations.

Violators are subject to the penalties that apply under existing law to violations of the laws governing amusements, amusement parks, and amusement rides, which are a fine of up to $500, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.

Amusement Owner Liability

The act specifies that it must not be construed to limit or otherwise affect the liability of the owner of an amusement (presumably of a public amusement park as well) or relieve the owner of the responsibility to reasonably supervise patrons.

Amusement License

When anyone applies for an amusement license, the public safety commissioner must conduct certain inspections to determine that the rides and devices are safe for public use. The act requires the commissioner to conduct the inspections in accordance with the frequency schedule adopted in regulations. (But neither the law nor the act explicitly requires the commissioner to include a frequency schedule in the regulations. )

ACCESS TO CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

The act requires that, in any criminal proceedings, any property or material constituting child pornography must remain in the state's care, custody, and control. It requires the court to deny any request by a defendant to copy, photograph, duplicate, or otherwise reproduce the material. But the state's attorney must make the material reasonably available to the defendant by providing the defendant or defendant's attorney or anyone the defendant seeks to qualify as an expert witness ample opportunity to inspect, view, and examine the material at a state facility or other facility the attorney for the state and defendant agree on.

Under the act, “child pornography” means any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a person under age 16.

PUBLIC SAFETY REGULATIONS

The act allows the public safety commissioner to adopt regulations to implement provisions of one state and three federal laws to provide for national criminal history record checks to determine an employee's or volunteer's suitability and fitness to care for the safety and well-being of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

The state law is the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact. The federal laws are the 1993 National Child Protection Act, 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, and 1998 Volunteers for Children Act.

FIREWORKS

When a fire marshal seized illegal fireworks under prior law, the Superior Court had 48 hours to issue a summons to the owner to appear in court and show cause why the fireworks should not be judged a nuisance and destroyed. The act instead requires the court to issue the summons expeditiously.

By law, if the court finds that the fireworks are kept in violation of the laws governing fireworks, it must declare them a nuisance and order them destroyed along with any crates, boxes, or vessels containing the fireworks. The act prohibits a court from requiring storage of the seized fireworks pending final disposition of the case. It instead requires the court to order the fireworks destroyed after they are inventoried, photographed, and described in a sworn affidavit and makes the inventory, photographs, and affidavit sufficient evidence for purposes of identifying the seized items in any subsequent court proceeding.

ASSESSOR'S RECORDS AND PUBLIC INSPECTION

The law requires property tax assessors to make certain records available for public inspection in their offices. These include (1) criteria, guidelines, and price schedules or statement of procedures used in revaluation and (2) a compilation of all real property sales in each neighborhood for the 12 months preceding the date on which each revaluation is effective. The act specifies that this requirement must not be construed to permit assessors to post on the Internet or otherwise publish the plans or drawings of any dwelling unit of a residential property's interior.

OLR Tracking: VR: KM: JL: TS