New laws for 2012

Following is a listing of selected motor vehicle/driver-related laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2012. This listing does not contain all bills enacted in 2011 that made changes to the California Vehicle Code. Only those having a significant impact are referenced. For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2010, please refer to the legislative website at

HOV Lanes/Green Stickers. Green clean air vehicle stickers pending federal approval will be available as of Jan. 1, 2012 and will be valid through Jan. 1, 2015 to the first 40,000 applicants that purchase or lease vehicles meeting California’s enhanced advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle requirements. 2011 legislation approved the green sticker for plug-in hybrid vehicles in California. The law also extended the sunset date for the white stickers issued to fully-electric and compressed natural gas vehicles until Jan. 1, 2015. (SB 535, Yee)

Electric Vehicles (EV) must now be plugged in for refueling when occupying an EVdesignated parking space, otherwise they may be towed. In addition, the law prohibits a person from obstructing, blocking, or otherwise barring access to an EV-designated parking space. (AB 475, Butler)

Driving Under the Influence.  Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, courts can order a 10-year driver license revocation of any California motorist convicted of a third or subsequent DUI violation, with possible reinstatement after five years if specified conditions are met. (AB 1601, Hill)

National Database Check for Vehicle Sales. This law requires all vehicles offered for sale in California to be checked against the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database to disclose past vehicle damage such as flooding or severe collisions. New vehicle dealers will also be electronically transmitting information to the DMV, ensuring faster delivery of registration documents and license plates to customers.  The new law took effect July 1, 2012. (AB 1215, Blumenfield)

Child Passenger Safety Seats. A change to California’s Child Passenger Safety Seat law will now require children to ride in either a car seat or booster seat until the age of eight, or until they reach a height of 4 feet 9 inches. This law also requires children who do not meet the age or height requirement to ride in the rear seat of a vehicle unless the vehicle has no back seats, the restraint system cannot be properly installed or the rear seats are already occupied by children under age eight. However, the law still maintains that a child may not ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger airbag if they are under one year of age, less than 20 pounds, or riding in a rear-facing child safety seat. (SB 929, Evans)

Sobriety checkpoints. Drivers are required to stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint. However, peace officers will be prohibited from impounding a vehicle for 30 days out of a sobriety checkpoint if the only offense by the driver is failing to hold a valid driver license. The new law requires that the officer make a reasonable attempt to identify the registered owner in order to release the vehicle. (AB 353, Cedillo)

Reckless Driving. Anyone who is convicted of reckless driving under Section 23103.5 of the Vehicle Code can apply for a restricted driver license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension, provided they meet specified conditions, including the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle. (AB 520, Ammiano)