2017 Brings New Laws to California Citizens and Tourists

If you live in California or you are planning a trip there, many of the new California laws which go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017 will represent major changes to people’s behavior behind the wheel of their cars and in many other circumstances.  Below is a run-down of the major changes that are most likely to affect the state’s citizens and, in many cases, tourists.  No matter where you live, it is a good idea to take note of the new laws before you visit California.


California has a number of new laws which go into effect in 2017, many of which will affect tourists as well as citizens. (Photo taken by author)

New Rules for Drivers … Both California Residents and Tourists

  • Drivers may not have their phones or other mobile devices in their hands while driving, under any circumstances.  Not only is it illegal to hold your cell phone while making calls or texting, you may not hold it in order to select music or use the GPS.  You may attach your phone to a bracket on your dashboard or windshield and you may touch or swipe the screen ONCE; you may not repeatedly scroll down the screen.
  • Children under the age of two must sit in rear-facing car seats.
  • Anyone who has been convicted of driving under the influence must attach a device, such as a breathalyzer, to their car to prove they are sober before they can start their ignition.
  • Motorcycles can now legally split lanes by driving between lanes of traffic; however, there are speed limits restricting how fast they can drive while lane splitting.
  • Companies such as Lyft and Uber must perform background checks on their drivers; they cannot hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of a violent crime or have had a DUI within the past seven years.  They also cannot have a blood alcohol level over 0.04 percent while driving customers.
  • If you are a passenger on a charter bus, the driver must give you instructions on how to use the safety equipment and emergency exits.

New Laws Affecting Your Money

  • If you are a resident of California, electric car rebates which are offered to buyers are now only available to residents with an income under $150,000 a year.
  • Homeowners will now be able to build small housing units on their properties, either in a garage or as a separate, free-standing building.
  • Surviving spouses will have more legal protections against foreclosure, even if their name is not listed on the mortgage.
  • The minimum wage will increase from $10 to $10.50 an hour for companies with 26 or more employees.

Stricter Criminal Laws

  • There is no longer a statute of limitations for rape or certain other sex crimes which occur after Dec. 31, 2016.
  • Prison time is mandatory in cases of sexual assault in which the victim was unconscious or otherwise unable to give consent, for example because they were intoxicated.
  • People caught in possession of a date-rape drug can be prosecuted for committing a felony.
  • Convicted sex offenders have to disclose their user names, email addresses and other internet information to authorities.
  • A number of other laws have been put in place to deal with internet sexting, bullying, malware and similar internet problems.

Restrictions on Guns and Ammunition

  • Citizens may no longer purchase the type of semi-automatic weapon which has often been used in mass shootings.  If you already own one, you must register it with the state.
  • There are also new regulations regarding the use, storage and licenses for concealed weapons.


  • Bathrooms in public buildings which contain only a single toilet will be designated all-gender, open to anyone, as of March 1.
  • The state cannot require any public employee to travel to a state which discriminates against lesbians, gays, transgender or bisexual people.
  • Smoking is not allowed within 250 feet of any youth sports activity.
  • Beauty parlors and barber shops can offer you a free beer or glass of wine.
  • Autographed collectibles must come with a certificate of authenticity.


  • To combat the opioid epidemic, a doctor must check a state database before prescribing painkillers, to make sure patients are not getting prescriptions from multiple doctors.
  • Women can get a one-year supply of birth control at a time, and it has to be covered by their insurance.
  • Businesses and public agencies must keep EpiPens or similar medication on hand in order to treat a patron having a severe allergic reaction.
  • Terminally ill California citizens have the right to try experimental drugs, even if they have not yet been approved by the FDA for clinical trials.
  • Medical marijuana use has been expanded to include recreational marijuana use, which is now legal in California.

Protecting Our Animals

  • If you see an animal in a car in danger of dying because of freezing weather or heat exposure, you must call authorities first, but then you can legally break into the vehicle to rescue the animal.
  • Dog kennels and pet hotels face new requirements regarding animal care.
  • Orca breeding and shows will be outlawed beginning in June.

A variety of other new laws and ballot measures will also go into force beginning in 2017, including the right of felons in county jails to be able to vote, and the right of voters to take selfies with their ballot.


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  1. Deb Jones

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