Pennsylvania must do more to protect transgender people from violence

Last Sunday at 5 a.m., a trans woman named Michelle Washington — who also went by “Tamika” — was found shot in the head and left for dead in North Philadelphia. Coming just a day after another trans woman, Muhlaysia Booker, was found shot and killed in Dallas, this homicide marked the fifth trans woman violently killed in the United States this year. Last year, we lost more than two dozen trans women to violence. More than half of those women were African American, and this year, all five recorded trans victims of homicide are African American women as well.

In April, a video surfaced in which a man named Edward Thomas savagely beat Booker until she was unconscious, while a crowd of people watched and other men joined. Eventually a group of women intervened and pulled her to safety, possibly saving her life at that moment. But a month later, the same woman would be found dead due to homicidal violence, without a suspect identified.

With two trans women of color found dead within 24 hours in different parts of the country, and 2018 being one of the deadliest years on record for trans women — especially black and Latino trans women — it’s past time we address this violence. This includes adding measures to combat anti-trans violence to the top of the page on progressive agendas. In particular, we need to end shoddy legal defenses used to justify this violence.

The gay and trans “panic” defense is “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder,” as the National LGBT Bar Association defines it. This strategy can include arguments that the gay or trans victim of violence made a sexual advance that caused “panic” in the attacker, or that the victim’s identity was reasonably viewed as “threatening” by the attacker, who then acted in self-defense. These defenses may even be employed when the attacker and the victim had a prior relationship, and the attacker wants to claim that they were “tricked” regarding the victim’s identity.

These arguments wrongly suggest that gay or trans identities pose an inherent safety risk, and that violence against LGBTQ people is justifiable simply when another person objects to their identities. Such an excuse for violence is flat-out wrong — yet it succeeds in some cases, reducing the sentences of those who commit hate crimes. This defense was put forth to justify, for example, the 1998 beating and killing of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in Wyoming.

In recent years, lawmakers have pushed back against this line of defense. Here in Pennsylvania, State Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D., Lehigh) introduced a bill addressing gay and trans panic defense, but the bill didn’t make it out of the Judiciary Committee. In July of last year, State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Philadelphia) began to lobby his colleagues to pass similar legislation, but we have yet to have anything for the governor to sign.

Pennsylvania — which still does not include LGBTQ people in its laws protecting against hate crimes — needs to step up on this issue. It’s time to start protecting women like Michelle Washington, and like Shantee Tucker, a 30-year-old black trans woman shot and killed in Philadelphia last year. Those are two lives we cannot bring back. But we can do more for the trans community in the future.

 

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Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law

A federal judge blocked a Mississippi law on Friday that forbids abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, Judge Carlton Reeves said the law “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortions services until after six weeks.”

“Allowing the law to take effect would force the clinic to stop providing most abortion care,” wrote Reeves, adding that “by banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, the law prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”

The law was set to take effect in July.

Supporters of abortion rights argue the law collides with Supreme Court precedent, violating a woman’s right to seek an abortion prior to viability.

The law is part of a new wave of restrictions introduced by Republican-led states — emboldened by President Donald Trump — to introduce legislation that calls into question Supreme Court precedent. The laws, none of which have gone into effect in 2019, triggered protests across the country on Tuesday, the same day Reeves heard arguments in Mississippi.

Critics worry that with the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to take the seat of swing vote retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court might eventually move to cut back on its landmark opinion Roe V. Wade, if not gut the 1973 decision.

The-CNN-Wire

& © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

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Kaja – Out of the Blue – Part 3

Pennsylvania’s DUI law prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while:
•having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more
•having any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance in the body, or
•impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent that it affects the person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Generally, a driver is deemed to have violated the law if a chemical test conducted within two hours of driving shows a BAC that’s above the legal limit. (Get an estimate of how many drinks it takes to put you at .08%.)

The consequences of a DUI conviction depend on the circumstances, including whether the motorist has prior DUI convictions. This article covers second-offense penalties. (Read more about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws, including first-offense and third-offense consequences.)

(75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3802 (2017).)

What Is Considered a “Second-Offense” DUI

In Pennsylvania, a DUI is considered a “second offense” if the motorist has one prior DUI conviction that occurred within the past ten years—including most out-of-state DUI convictions.

(75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3806 (2017).)

Penalties for a Second DUI

The consequences of a second DUI conviction—which can be the result of a plea bargain or being found guilty after a trial—differ depending on the facts of the case. But generally, the possible penalties include:
•DUI based on impairment or a BAC of at least .08% but less than .1%. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment or having a BAC of .08% or more but less than .1% is a misdemeanor. A convicted driver is looking at $300 to $2,500 in fines, five days to six months in jail, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
•Impairment DUIs involving injuries, death, or property damage and DUIs involving BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and someone was injured or killed or another’s property was damaged or the driver had a BAC of .1% or more but less than .16% is a misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 30 days to six months in jail, $750 to $5,000 in fines, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment. (Also, read about Pennsylvania’s homicide-by-vehicle laws.)
•Impairment DUIs involving a refusal to take a breath test and DUIs involving BAC of at least .16% or controlled substances. A second DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and refused to take a breath test or the driver had a BAC of at least .16% or any concentration of a controlled substance is a first-degree misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 90 days to five years in jail, at least $1,500 in fines, and an 18-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
DUIs with a minor passenger. A second offender who’s caught driving under the influence with a passenger who is under 18 years old is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, the convicted motorist is looking at least $2,500 in fines and one to six months in jail. The driver also faces an 18-month license suspension.

So they basically threw the book at Kaja to teach her a serious lesson.

Starting August 25, 2017, anyone convicted of a second DUI must have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed to obtain a restricted license during the suspension period.

(18 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1104 (2017); 75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3802, 3803, 3804, 3805 (2017); Commonwealth v. Giron, 155 A.3d 635, 638 (2017).)

 

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