New year, new laws

GLENDALE — The new year brings a host of new laws, including reduced penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, making online and electronic impersonation a crime and banning all foods with artificial trans fats.

Starting today, getting caught with less than an ounce of marijuana will no longer be a misdemeanor crime after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a measure that reduced the offense to an infraction punishable only by a $100 fine.

Schwarzenegger stated reduced penalties for the offense because the judicial system "cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket."

As a misdemeanor, the offender was entitled to a jury trial and attorney.

But changing the offense to an infraction won't impact law enforcement, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said

Officers often request a California identification card from the offender, then issue a citation and seize any marijuana they find, he said. If the offender was driving when the marijuana was discovered, police will conduct field sobriety tests, Lorenz added.

"It really doesn't have an impact on what we have been doing," he said.

Impersonating someone on the Internet, including on Twitter, Facebook or MySpace, or through e-mail, will now be considered a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail.

The misdemeanor offense, dubbed "E-personation," takes aim at offenders who impersonate others without consent with the intent to threaten, harm, intimidate or defraud.

"E-personation is the dark side of the social networking revolution. Facebook or MySpace pages, e-mails, texting and comments on Web forums have been used to humiliate or torment people and even put them in danger," Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who authored the legislation, said in a statement. "Victims have needed a law they can turn to."

The law provides officers with a necessary tool to arrest offenders who are constantly stalking and harassing others, Lorenz said.

While some laws like the "E-personation" legislation were created to address the nefarious use of modern technology, others are looking to limit the use of harmful ingredients.

Also starting today, oil, shortening, and margarine containing artificial trans fat are banned from food facilities in California.

Under the state ban, all other food containing more than 0.5 grams of artificial trans fat is barred from restaurants, manufacturing plants and other food facilities.

Failing to comply could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

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