Tag Archives: criminalize

Tougher drunken driving law takes effect Jan. 1

Repeat drunken drivers will face tougher penalties in Wisconsin starting with the new year.

A new law signed by the governor in April makes a fourth drunken driving offense a felony regardless of when it’s committed.

Currently a fourth offense is a felony only if committed within five years of a third offense.

The law also increases the maximum sentence for fifth and sixth offenses from three years to five.

Maximum sentences for seventh, eighth and ninth offenses will increase from five years to seven and a half. The maximum sentence for a 10th or subsequent offense will move from seven and a half years to a decade behind bars.

The measure goes into effect Jan. 1.

Wisconsin remains the only the state that doesn’t criminalize a first offense, however.

On the web

Read about drunken driving laws from MADD.

Oklahoma senator mulls overriding governor’s abortion veto

The Oklahoma Republican state senator who authored a bill that would effectively outlaw abortion in the state said Saturday that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll try to override the governor’s veto.

“I have not made a decision,” Sen. Nathan Dahm, of Broken Arrow, told The Associated Press. “That’s what we’re pursuing, what we’d like to see accomplished.”

He said he’ll decide during the coming week whether to pursue an attempt — the same week that the Legislature faces a deadline to adjourn while grappling with a $1.3 billion budget hole that could lead to cuts to public schools, health care and the state’s overcrowded prison system. They’ve yet to be presented with a proposed state budget.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill Friday, saying that while she opposes abortion, it was vague and would not withstand a legal challenge.

The measure would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, including doctors. State law already makes it a felony for anyone who’s not a doctor to perform an abortion, and Dahm’s bill would have removed the exemption for physicians.

Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Fallin, said the governor has not been notified of a veto override attempt.

“It’s a legislative decision. Obviously she would like it to be supported, but it’s up to the Legislature at this point,” McNutt said.

The Senate voted 33-12 for the bill on Thursday, one vote more than needed to override in the Senate and send it to the House.

Dahm noted that it could be difficult for those who voted for the legislation to vote for an override.

“Sometimes people, even if they voted for the bill, are hesitant to vote to override the governor’s veto because of their concern about the governor being petty and vindictive and vetoing some of their legislation,” Dahm said.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who voted for the bill, said Friday that he supported it because it’s an anti-abortion measure, but was noncommittal whether he would vote for a veto override.

“We’re working with the governor on the budget, so there’s got to be some strategy involved there,” Bingman said. “I want to support the governor as much as I can. At the same time, I want to support our members, so I’ll have to think on that.”

NRA pushes bill making it a crime to photograph or videotape Wisconsin hunters

The National Rifle Association and state gun and hunting groups are backing GOP legislative proposals that would make it a crime to photograph or videotape hunters on public land in Wisconsin.

Senate Bill 338 and Assembly Bill 433 were introduced by Sen. Terry Moulton, of Chippewa Falls, and Rep. Adam Jarchow, of Balsam Lake. Jarchow said his bills were in response to complaints from hunters who felt a group called Wolf Patrol was harassing them. The group documents trapping and hunting activities, and has focused this year on baiting bears. The measures call for fines of up to $10,000 and nine months in jail.

The bills have drawn support from the NRA, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, and the NRA’s state chapter, which is called Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs & Educators. The proposals are opposed by the Humane Society of the United States.

In addition to being an influential lobbying force on state and federal pro-gun policies, the NRA has spent millions of dollars to influence state and federal elections. In Wisconsin, the NRA spent $3.6 million between 2008 and 2014 on independent expenditures to support Republican and conservative candidates for statewide offices and the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. About $3.5 million, or 96 percent, of the NRA’s election spending between 2008 and 2014 in Wisconsin was to support GOP Gov. Scott Walker. The NRA spent the bulk of its electioneering war chest on broadcast ads and mailings.

To view the NRA’s outside electioneering activities, how much it spent and the candidates it supported and opposed in elections between 2008 and 2014, please check out the Democracy Campaign’s NRA profiles – here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In addition to its outside spending on behalf of candidates, the NRA Political Victory Fund, which is the organization’s political action committee (PAC), made another $49,825 in direct contributions to candidates between 2008 and June 2015.

Since 2008, the NRA’s PAC and corporation have spent about $1,700 on independent expenditures to help elect Moulton and the PAC directly contributed another $500 to his campaign.

Immigrant rights group challenges Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office over public records

Immigrant rights advocates planned to rally on May 6 at the Milwaukee County Courthouse before suing the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office over public records.

Voces de la Frontera said activists would gather at about 12:30 p.m. at the courthouse at 10th and Wells.

A news release said Voces de la Frontera sued the MCSO “under Wisconsin’s Open Records law in an effort to receive information about the sheriff’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs in deportations.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces executive director, said, “This is about transparency and the public’s need to have oversight over the activities of our sheriff that are leading to unjust deportations and policies that criminalize immigrants.”

The New Sanctuary Movement, a faith-based program of Voces de la Frontera, organized the rally.

Opponents of ‘ag-gag’ law plead case to judge

Animal rights lawyers are asking a federal judge to strike down an Idaho law aiming to stop people from secretly filming animal abuse in the state’s agricultural facilities.

The law’s opponents asked U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill this week for a summary judgment — a fast-tracked way for a judge to rule on a lopsided case without having a full trial.

Justin Marceau from the Animal Legal Defense Fund said the statute — dubbed the “ag gag” law — stifles free speech. 

But Carl Withroe from the Idaho Attorney General’s office said that the law doesn’t hinder whistleblowers. “The statute was designed to protect private property and to protect agricultural operations, not to target journalists or would-be whistleblowers,” Withroe said.

But Marceau argued that the law was actually inspired by animus toward journalists and whistleblowers, citing comments from lawmakers during the debate.

“The state can’t just wave the wand of private property and protect any law it wants,” said Marceau, who is also backed by a coalition of food safety groups and individual rights advocates.

Winmill said he hopes to issue his ruling next week. If he rejects the arguments, the case will likely head to a full trial.

Idaho is one of seven states with ag gag legislation, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Similar litigation — also prompted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund — is currently underway in Utah.

Lawmakers passed the statute last February after a Los Angeles-based vegetarian and animal-rights group called Mercy for Animals released a video showing animal abuse at one of Idaho’s largest dairies. The video of workers at Bettencourt Dairies shows workers stomping, beating, dragging and sexual abusing the cows.

But Idaho’s dairy industry says that the group used its videos to unfairly hurt Bettencourt’s business — not try to stop abuse.

Winmill already denied Idaho’s request to dismiss the lawsuit last September.

“This is really the cutting edge of the interstitial boundaries of First Amendment law,” he said. “The decision here has no politics and has no economic interests. It’s just a question of what the First Amendment means and how it should be applied.”

People convicted under the law face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Illegal abortion: Back to the future?

Forty-two years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that most restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional. The reasonable compromise of Roe v. Wade has been under attack ever since. 

The Roe v. Wade decision cited an individual’s right to privacy and a physician’s right to practice medicine without government interference “in the absence of compelling state interests.” The court defined state interests as including the health of a woman and the potential life of a fetus after six months’ gestation. 

The ruling allowed a woman to decide for herself during the first trimester whether to terminate her pregnancy. During the second trimester, regulations related to clinical settings could be imposed in the interests of protecting the woman’s health. In the third trimester, when viability of the fetus (ability to live outside the womb) was assumed, the state could restrict abortion except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.

This wise decision is being shredded out of existence through public funding cuts; parental and spousal notification laws; mandatory waiting periods; compulsory, unscientific “counseling”; bogus, invasive screening procedures; onerous restrictions on abortion clinics; intimidation of patients and clinic personnel; assassinations of doctors.

What awaits us if abortion is again criminalized?

In the decades before Roe, up to 1.2 million American women obtained illegal abortions every year. Five thousand women — mothers, daughters, sisters, wives — died annually as the result of illegal abortions, whether self-induced or performed by any unqualified hack looking to make a buck. 

Thousands more women were injured seriously enough to require medical care. 

The results of desperate do-it-yourself and back-alley abortions could be perforated uteruses, internal burning and scarring from caustic substances like lye, and life-threatening sepsis.

“Pro-life” activists display big, colorful pictures of fetuses to dramatize their position. Pre-Roe legalization advocates had more horrific pictures to share: gruesome photos of women’s dead bodies, naked, contorted, bleeding out, abandoned in basements and alleyways.

The highly publicized ordeal of Sherri Finkbine in 1962 spurred public concern.

Finkbine, the mother of four children, worked as “Miss Sherri,” the host of the local version of Romper Room in Phoenix. Suffering from nausea and insomnia with her fifth pregnancy, she took a drug her husband had obtained in Europe — a toxic drug later banned for use by pregnant women: thalidomide.

Finkbine felt worse as her pregnancy progressed and tests revealed the fetus to be seriously deformed. Finkbine requested a therapeutic abortion (the only type available and rarely granted). An Arizona hospital first assented, then reneged. Finkbine appealed to a judge, who dismissed her case. She had to travel all the way to Sweden to finally obtain an abortion.

By 1970, only two states allowed abortion in the first months of pregnancy. Outside New York and Hawaii, only women who could afford the cost of travel to those states could obtain abortions. Women who self-aborted or obtained illegal abortions were criminals, risking prosecution, endangering themselves and living in fear and shame.

In the wake of Roe v. Wade, safe, legal abortion saved thousands of women’s lives. Since 1980, abortion rates have declined due to more effective contraception and access to family planning services. 

In Wisconsin today, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislators are destroying both family planning and abortion services. To resist these backward, damaging efforts, go to www.ppawi.org and get involved. 

Jamaican activist ends legal challenge to anti-sodomy law

A young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the Caribbean island’s anti-sodomy law has withdrawn the claim after growing fearful about violent backlashes, advocacy groups and colleagues said over the weekend.

Last year, Javed Jaghai made headlines after initiating a constitutional court challenge to Jamaica’s 1864 law that bans consensual sex between men. He argued that the anti-sodomy law fuels homophobia and violates a charter of human rights adopted in 2011 that guarantees people the right to privacy.

But in an affidavit, Jaghai said he has been “threatened enough times to know that I am vulnerable.” The 25-year-old man believes his “loved ones are under threat” by intolerant people and the drawn-out court challenge is causing too much stress and anxiety.

“Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings,” Jaghai wrote in a statement withdrawing his Supreme Court claim.

Jamaica’s rarely used anti-sodomy law bans anal sex and sets a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and hard labor. Anything interpreted as “gross indecency” between men can be punished by two years in prison.

Janet Burak of New York-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World said the fear that pushed Jaghai to end his court challenge is an all-too familiar fear among the LGBT community in Jamaica. It’s “the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention treatment, care and support interventions,” she said in a statement.

When Jaghai initiated the legal challenge last year, several church pastors led crowded revival meetings in Jamaica’s two biggest cities to oppose overturning the anti-sodomy law.

Many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be wrong, but insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by activists. But anti-gay epithets are heard frequently and attacks on LGBT Jamaicans or people perceived to be gay do occur from time to time. Last year, a transgender teen named Dwayne Jones was murdered by a mob at a crowded street dance and his slaying remains unsolved.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller vowed to put the anti-sodomy law to a “conscience vote” in Parliament during the leadup to 2011 elections but nothing has been accomplished.

J-FLAG, Jamaica’s biggest gay rights group, says Jaghai’s courage has inspired other young homosexuals in Jamaica who are not willing to live in the shadows.

“Javed has made history and will forever remain a hero to the Jamaican LGBT community,” said activist Brian-Paul Welsh.

U.S. bans Ugandan officials over gay rights abuses

The U.S. is imposing visa bans on Ugandan officials who are involved in corruption and are violating the rights of gay people and others.

The Obama administration did not identify the targeted officials.

Uganda passed a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law.

Human rights groups have reported a surge in rights abuses of gay people since the law took effect.

“LGBT rights are human rights and the steps taken today make clear that the United States will take action to defend those rights,” U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement. “The discriminatory law in Uganda that criminalizes homosexual status should be repealed, as should laws and policies in the more than 76 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality. We will do everything we can to work with governments and our non-government partners to end anti-gay discrimination around the world.”

The U.S. already has said it would discontinue or redirect several million dollars in assistance to Uganda. The Pentagon also canceled a training exercise in Uganda.

Egyptian court sentences men to 8 years in prison for homosexuality

A judicial official says an Egyptian court has convicted four men of committing homosexual acts and sentenced them to up to eight years in prison.

The Nasr City misdemeanor court issued its ruling on April 7. Police arrested the men for holding parties they say involved homosexual acts and where they found in what was characterized as women’s clothes and makeup.

Three of the four received eight years while one received three years with hard labor.

In 2011, a high profile trial of 52 men accused of being gay caught international attention and drew criticism from rights groups.

Twenty-three of them were sentenced to up to five years in prison while the rest were acquitted.

Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, and prosecutors usually level charges that include terms such as “debauchery.”