Virginia Democrats Proposes Legislation to Reduce Assault Charges on Law Enforcement Officers

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
July 1, 2020US News
Virginia Democrats Proposes Legislation to Reduce Assault Charges on Law Enforcement Officers
Richmond police officers respond to a suspected gunman on a building overlooking a park with a statue of Robert E. Lee and where protesters have gathered on June 20, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Eze Amos/Getty Images)

Virginia Senate Democrats have proposed new legislation that will reduce an assault charge on law enforcement officers from a felony to a misdemeanor offense.

Under current law, an assault charge on a public servant is a Class 6 Felony and upon conviction, the assailant faces up to a minimum term of confinement of six months, according to Virginia Code. The new proposal will downgrade the felony and make it only a misdemeanor.

The announcement of the downgrading of an assault charge on law enforcement is only one of 28 proposals for reforming the Commonwealth’s police and criminal justice systems, The Fort Hunt Herald reported.

The new legislation comes as a part of a broader police reform agenda that multiple U.S. states are enacting following nationwide anti-police protests sparked by the police custody death of George Floyd despite the officers involved in his death being dismissed and charged.

NTD Photo
People march past a police officer stopping traffic during a protest against the death of George Floyd in Charlottesville, Va., on May 30, 2020. (Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images)

“The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor has awoken Americans and Virginians to long standing problems in policing in America,” Virginia Senate Democrats wrote in a news release.

“After people are arrested additional damage is done by a criminal justice system that has been streamlined to produce convictions and punishment instead of rehabilitation and justice,” the release continued.

Virginia State Sen. and former U.S. Navy Seal Scott Taylor told Fox News an assault charge on law enforcement officers has only been a felony since 1997. He added that the felony charge was done as part of a compromise related to harsher treatments of hate crimes.

“The country is dealing with a virus right now obviously, but crime and chaos is as well a virus, and there is only one vaccine for that, and that’s law and order,” the Republican senator told the outlet. “Some of these policies are fraying the very fabric of our society,” adding that “they are not only putting our men and women in blue in danger but they’re also making our communities less safe.”

Taylor stated that he thinks these policies are very bad for our country. “I am concerned for my community, for my commonwealth, and for my country,” the senator said.

“Some of these led policies they do nothing for equality, they do nothing to protect black lives,” Taylor said. “In fact, they put blue lives in danger, which are also black lives in many circumstances.”

The list of 28 proposals for police reforms was released by the Senate and include legislation that has already been presented but has not yet been passed.

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus’s list of proposed reforms includes:

  • Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
  • Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement
  • Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  • Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds (George Floyd)
  • Require Attempts at De-escalation Prior to Use of Force
  • Require Warnings Before Shots Fired
  • Require Law Enforcement to Exhaust All Other Means Prior to Shooting
  • Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
  • Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles
  • Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Defelonize Assault on Law Enforcement Officer (Return to Misdemeanor Offense)
  • Cancel HB599 Funding (Virginia supplemental funding for local police departments) After Local Police Have Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents in their Jurisdiction
  • Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System – System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board Empowered to Investigate, Fire and/or Discipline Officers
  • Confirm Prosecutors’ Authority to Drop Charges
  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Charges for Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions and Pardoned Offenses
  • Prohibit Searches of Person or Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana Without Probable Cause for Other Offenses
  • Prohibit Stops for Equipment Violations Not Covered by State Vehicle Inspection
  • Secondary Offense For Dangling Objects, Extinguished Tag Light, Tinted Windows or Loud Exhaust
  • Jury Sentencing Only at Option of the Accused
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Demand Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for State of Emergency
  • Require Agencies to Determine Cost Savings for Introduced Criminal Justice Legislation
  • Allow Earned Sentence Credit for Good Behavior During Prison
  • Create Discretion for Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
  • Virginia Rental Assistance Fund for Families Economically Impacted by COVID
  • Require and Reimburse Localities for Postage Prepaid Envelopes for Absentee Voting

Almost 2,000 Virginia police officers have faced an assault in 2019, according to data released by Virginia State Police.

One law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty that year. Most of the other assaults resulted in minor injuries, though multiple other incidents ended with broken bones, severe lacerations, and potential internal injuries.

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