The new year has brought several new laws that many still do not know about. Unfortunately, claiming you have no knowledge of the law is not a valid defense upon accusations that you have violated the law. This means that your best bet is to be aware of newly enacted laws, and simply abide by them. Here are several new laws that were recently enacted.
Right to Die Laws
The “right to die” is by no means a new concept. Those who are terminally ill have fought hard for their right to end their lives. For some, it may be hard to understand. However, there are certain situations where living with the pain of a terminal disease becomes so excruciating that some describe prolonging death as inhumane. Those who advocate for the right to die see it as giving power back to the terminally ill. Allowing the patient to take lethal drugs on his or her own terms places the power back into the patient’s hands, instead of allowing the disease to govern.
AB-15, also known as the End of Life Option Act, took effect in June 2016. It authorizes doctors to prescribe lethal medicine to terminally-ill patients. The California law is very similar to the current Oregon law, but with slight modifications. The new law authorizes, but does not require health plans to cover the cost of the lethal drugs. It also protects physicians from disciplinary action for prescribing the drugs. Physicians must abide by certain safeguards like exhausting all other options and ruling out psychiatric abnormalities in the patient before prescribing the lethal medicine.
Gender Neutral Bathrooms
Under AB 1732, all single-stall toilets in California must be designated as “gender neutral.” This law will take effect as of March 1, 2017. The purpose of this law is to promote equality and transgender rights. Governor Brown has been a tremendous advocate for transgender rights. Brown signed a law in 2013 which allows California students to use public school bathrooms that correlate with their gender identity. Brown also added gender identity to California’s antidiscrimination laws in 2011.
In response to a major problem with human trafficking, particularly of minors, SB 1322 says that minors cannot be charged with prostitution. Passing SB 1322 means that minors who would previously be charged with prostitution will now be treated as witnesses. Minors will be placed with the Department of Social Services and out of the criminal judicial system.
“Redskins” as school mascots
“Redskins” as a team mascot has been controversial for several years. However, California is the first state to ban public schools from using Redskins as a mascot. As on January 1, 2017, all schools must at least begin to phase out materials containing the word “Redskins.” Those who led the advocacy group for this change hope that other states will follow in California’s footsteps.
Changes to sexual assault charges
After former Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, was given only six months in jail with early release for allegedly assaulting an unconscious woman, SB 2888 now creates harsher punishment for this type of conviction. Under this new law, sexually assaulting an unconscious or severely intoxicated person is a crime ineligible for probation. Before this measure, those convicted of sexually assaulting someone who was unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication were left to the judge’s discretion. Under SB 2888, these crimes are considered rape and are thus ineligible for probation consideration.
Harsher cell phone laws
Under the new laws, which took effect January 1, 2017, drivers may only use their hand to activate or deactivate a feature on a phone that requires a single swipe. This change is harsher than previous laws, which prohibited a driver from writing, sending, or reading text-based communications on their devices while driving. Under the new law, the device must be mounted to the windshield or dashboard. Thus, under the new laws, if you are caught holding your cell phone while driving, you may be cited.