NH Law About... Jessica's Law

Introduction to... Jessica's Law

Posted February 23, 2015. Revised October 3, 2016; December 9, 2016.

We were asked recently to find the law in New Hampshire that requires motorists to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. That law is RSA 265:79-b, also known as "Jessica's Law." As we describe below, this proved to be much more difficult than we expected and provides several lessons about legal research.

Jessica’s Law was passed by the New Hampshire legislature in 2001 (and later amended in 2005) in response to the death of Jessica Smith, a 20 year old woman who was killed when ice flew off the top of a truck and hit a second truck, resulting in a head-on collision with Jessica's car.

Using Popular Names

The phrase "Jessica's Law" is the "popular name" of the law. According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute popular names may have different purposes: 

Sometimes they say something about the substance of the law (as with the '2002 Winter Olympic Commemorative Coin Act'). Sometimes they are a way of recognizing or honoring the sponsor or creator of a particular law (as with the 'Taft-Hartley Act'). And sometimes they are meant to garner political support for a law by giving it a catchy name (as with the 'USA Patriot Act' or the 'Take Pride in America Act') or by invoking public outrage or sympathy (as with any number of laws named for victims of crimes). History books, newspapers, and other sources use the popular name to refer to these laws. (http://www.law.cornell.edu/topn/0)

 A Google search on "Jessica's Law" reveals that there's more than one Jessica's Law. The other Jessica's Law relates to sex offenders, is much more prevalent in the news, and comes up in Google searches more frequently than NH's Jessica’s Law. When you do find NH's Jessica's Law, the various news reports don't give the citation; they use only the popular name and don't provide a link to the law online. Also, most of the news reports say that the law was passed in 2002. In fact it was passed in 2001 and went into effect in 2002. That one year makes a big difference when searching legal databases.

Using Keyword Searching 

Even though Jessica's Law in effect created a duty for motorists to completely remove snow and ice from their vehicles before driving to prevent hazards to others on the road, the law does not mention snow or ice at all. This means that a keyword search in the Revised Statutes Online for "snow" "ice" and "motor vehicles," or some variation of that, doesn't work.  In addition, although popular names are sometimes found within the text of statutes, in this case, "Jessica's Law" is not part of the text of the law, so keyword searching the statute for that phrase doesn't work either. 

Using the Print Index 

Since we first posted this guide, the editors of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated have added Jessica's Law to the print index. Look under "Popular Name Laws -- Jessicas Law" and you'll see it. You can find it also under "Negligence – Motor vehicles, operation -- RSA 265:79-b (a.k.a. Jessica's Law).  To verify that this was the law we were looking for (since it didn't mention snow or ice) we checked the history of the bill that created RSA 265:79-b. The testimony heard by New Hampshire legislators on House Bill 652 of the 2001 session confirmed that this was the right law.  Committee files, where the testimony is found, can be a very helpful source of information about the law. Committee files from 1995 through 2008 have been digitized and are online at the General Court's website (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/).   


Read about... Jessica's Law

WEBSITES

New Hampshire House of Representatives. Committee Records for 2001 House Bill 652   GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

New Hampshire Senate. Committee Records for 2001 House Bill 652   GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

New Hampshire House of Representatives. Committee Records for 2005 House Bill 357   GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

New Hampshire Senate. Committee Records for 2005 House Bill 357  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016


PRINT

Personal injury : tort and insurance practice / by Richard B. McNamara. LexisNexis, 2003. 3rd ed.   GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

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Read the law about... Jessica's Law

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 263:46-a Notification of Offenses  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

RSA 263:51 Grounds for Revoking or Suspending School License or Driver Education Certificate  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

RSA 265:79-b. Negligent Driving  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

RSA 626:2, II(d). General Requirements of Culpability  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE REGULATIONS

Saf-C 212.03 (d). Demerit Points  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

Saf-C 902.06 (k). Definitions  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

Saf-C 3106.01 (e) (43). Disqualification of Applicant  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016


FOR MORE HELP ...

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: March 24, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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