Share story

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — New laws taking effect in Connecticut will reduce penalties for “sexting” by children, increase sentences for certain hate crimes and impose new fines for calling police or fire departments to false alarms.

Dozens of bills passed during the last session of the General Assembly go into effect on Sunday.

One criminal statute will reduce the penalties for pre-teens who send sexual images to one another other from a felony to a misdemeanor, differentiating that crime from the distribution of child pornography.

Another law would allow judges to order restitution for the crime of “swatting,” where someone calls out a police or fire department to a made-up emergency.

The charge of intimidation based on bigotry and bias also has been changed from a misdemeanor to a felony. Lawmakers also imposed new minimum fines for some hate crimes, such as burning a cross.

Among the other new laws taking effect Sunday:

— A law that will allow farmers in the state to manufacture and sell alcohol or spirits. The so-called “moonshine law” will allow farms to produce up to 10,000 gallons of alcohol a year, but at least 25 percent of the crops used to make the alcohol must be grown on site.

— Owners of animal shelters must now obtain a license to run those facilities at a cost of $50 every two years. New fines also are being put in place for those who violate health and safety standards at shelters.

— Good Samaritans who break into hot cars to rescue children now have civil and criminal immunity from lawsuits.

— The state no longer can take ownership of property seized by law enforcement until the person from whom the property was seized has been convicted of a crime.