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New laws take effect at midnight

New state laws to strengthen punishment for domestic violence and drunken driving are among dozens that take effect at midnight tonight.

Other laws that begin Saturday increase penalties for elderly abuse and move toward opening local telephone service to competition.

Some of the biggest changes are intended to combat domestic violence.

The legislation streamlines the process for victims whose spouses violate court injunctions and expands the definition of domestic violence to include aggravated assault, aggravated battery, stalking and aggravated stalking.

It also:

Requires judges, when setting bail for someone accused of domestic violence, to consider the safety of the victim, children and anyone else who may be in danger if the defendant is released.

Prohibits those with a domestic violence injunctions against them from buying guns.

Requires child care facilities to assist children in preventing and avoiding abuse.

Allows police to arrest without a warrant someone who violates an injunction or commits a repeat battery.

Another new law will make repeat drunken drivers spend more time behind bars and impose tougher driver's license suspensions.

Anyone convicted a second time of driving under the influence within five years must serve 48 hours of a 10-day mandatory jail sentence consecutively.

The law also establishes a "hard suspension" for the license of a drunken driver whose administrative suspension, also called roadside suspension, is upheld.

Drivers will no longer be eligible for restricted hardship licenses that allow them to drive to work immediately after a temporary permit expires. Under the change, a temporary permit will increase from seven to 30 days.

But after the temporary permit expires, licenses will be suspended for 30 days if the suspension was for unlawful blood alcohol level. The suspension is 90 days for a driver who refuses to submit to breath, blood or urine testing.

If a driver is not eligible for a temporary permit, the suspension will run from the date of arrest.

Several other major laws also are set to take effect Saturday:

Anyone charged with deliberately abusing or neglecting an elderly person or disabled adult faces a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, instead of a first-degree misdemeanor.

The law allows hearsay under certain circumstances in judicial proceedings, allows criminal actions to be expedited and establishes new penalties for the crime of exploitation based on the value of a victim's assets or funds.

Sweeping legislation to create competition in the local phone business takes effect July 1, but the new law doesn't end local phone service monopolies for six months.

As of Jan. 1, cable TV and long distance companies can enter the local phone service market.

NEW LAWS OF THE LAND

Laws that take effect at midnight tonight:

Strengthen domestic violence penalties.

Toughen penalties for elderly abuse.

Require drivers convicted of a second DUI to serve at least 48 hours of a 10-day mandatory jail sentence consecutively.

Establish economic assistance program for commercial fishermen hurt by the net ban that takes effect July 1.

Require insurers to offer mammogram coverage that would not be subject to a deductible.

Allow courts to impose $1 a month fee as a condition of probation or community control.

Begin the process of increasing competition in the local phone service market, but don't deregulate local service until Jan. 1.

Include electronic data in the definition of public records.

Revise organ and tissue donation requirements and authorize state to note on the front of driver's licenses a person's agreement to donate.

Set new safety standards for adult congregate living facilities, give the state more power to prosecute elder abuse or neglect, and move nursing home screening and a home-care program from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to the Department of Elder Affairs.

Require hospitals to have two employees attend a patient in a recovery room, except under emergency circumstances or if they have electronic surveillance equipment.

Laws that take effect July 10:

Provide $1.5-million to Jean Sadowski, the widow of former Department of Community Affairs Secretary William Sadowski, who was killed in the crash of a state plane in April 1992.

Create the "Florida Education Now and Babies Later" program to reduce childhood pregnancies by encouraging abstinence.

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