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Jan 1, 2016 5:50 PM

Landrigan: New state laws affect drunken drivers, hunters, victims of domestic violence.

CONCORD - Motorists, hunters, victims of domestic violence and homeowners in danger of foreclosure, listen up because the new year means new state laws that affect you.

Most of the 276 laws the Legislature made in 2015 have already swung into action but typically criminal and motor vehicle changes start on January 1.

There’s a big sweeping reform in the court system as felony trials will no longer start in lower courts but instead begin in the superior court.

The chief justice says this will lead to a more efficient judicial branch.

"And i think what this plan will do will make for more accurate charging decisions," says Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau. "If 20 percent of cases resolve in a misdemeanor and it’s the same type of case, they shouldn’t be brought as felonies in the first place."

But defense lawyers critical of the change that ends a mandatory probable cause hearing in all cases and leaves that discretion up to the judge.

"The probable cause hearing has been and is now a check on the power of the police," says Michael Iacopino, a noted, criminal defense lawyer.

There’s some relief for first-time drunken drivers. Even during your suspension you can get a limited privileges license that allows you to commute only for these purposes - to work, education, job training, medical treatment or rehabilitation.

The Legislature passed this state law in 2014 but agreed to delay its start a year so the Department of Safety could create the new license.

There’s more breathing space for homeowners before they can lose their homes. This will require banks to give 20 more days notice to residents that they are preparing to take their home.

"Try to work it out through a loan modification, an extra few weeks, 20 days, we are doing 20 to 45 days that’s it," says State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Here are some other significant new laws, banning the use of drones to keep track of hunters, preventing schools from making students give up their personal information on social media and keeping domestic abusers in jail prior to an arraignment for violating a protective order.

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