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5 of the 900-ish New Laws Coming to California in 2015

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on January 02, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a big year for ch- ch- changes in California law. Starting in 2015, everything from human trafficking to massage therapy to emotional support animals will see some tweaks.

Here's what you should know in order to keep up to speed with some of the more high-profile changes to state law coming in the new year:

Barring the 'Gay Panic' Defense

Throughout the country, homicide defendants have successfully used this bizarre defense to argue that they hate gay people so, so much that the very thought of encountering a gay person drove them into a reasonable heat of passion, turning murder into manslaughter.

Sound like crap? The California Legislature thought so too. Effective January 1, defendants won't be able to argue that discovery of a victim's sexual orientation, as well as race, religion, ethnicity, disability, or gender drove them into a reasonable heat of passion.

Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

Also as of January 1, applicants for drivers licenses who can't provide proof of lawful presence in the United States can now get California driver's licenses. As long as they provide proof of their identity and California residency, and pass the driving test, undocumented immigrants can get driver's licenses.

Smart Phone 'Kill Switch'

After July 1, every smartphone sold in California -- which is, basically, every smartphone manufactured anywhere -- has to support a "kill switch" for remotely deactivating the phone in the event of theft. (There's an exception for phones that can't practicably support the function.)

Critics of the bill claimed that, though deterring theft is a laudable goal, law enforcement could remotely deactivate phones under color of "emergency" in order to stifle lawful protests.

Mandatory Sick Leave

Also starting July 1, employers will be required to grant at least three paid sick days per year to employees. Employees can accrue up to six paid sick days, and employers can limit the amount of paid sick days an employee uses to three per year. California is the first state to require mandatory paid sick leave.

Distributing Nude Selfies Also a Crime

Finally, SB 1255 is now in effect. It modifies California's "revenge porn" law to include self-created nude or sexually explicit photos that the picture-taker reasonably expects to be kept private. The new law closes a loophole in California existing revenge porn law, which applied only to photos taken of someone else.

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