While American burns and law enforcement officers continue to come under attack by leftists in protests and riots, Virginia Senate Democrats have proposed downgrading the charge of assault on a police officer to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Under current law, anyone who is convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer in Virginia is guilty of a Class 6 felony and subject to a mandatory minimum term of confinement of 6 months, according to Virginia code.
This same penalty applies to anyone who assaults a person they know, or have reason to know, is a judge, magistrate, prison guard, firefighter or some other criminal justice administrator or first responder.
However Virginia Democrats are pushing to reduce these penalties that protect first responders and officers of the law from violence.
Fort Hunt Herald reports: The proposal is listed as “defelonize assault on law enforcement officer (return to misdemeanor offense).” It is just one of many proposals by the Senate Democratic Caucus that could be considered at a special session on criminal justice reform legislation planned for August 2020 in Richmond.
In 2019, one law enforcement officer was feloniously killed in the line of duty and another 1,939 were assaulted, according to data released in May by the Virginia State Police. Of those assaults, most incidents (1,327) did not result in a significant injury to the officer, but other incidents did result in the law enforcement officer sustaining minor injuries (497), major injuries (22), broken bones (7), severe lacerations (6), and potential internal injuries (4).
The list of measures was drafted in the wake of mass protests against the killing of black people by law enforcement officers, specifically George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. However, the Senate Democratic Caucus notes that it has been working to reform the policing and criminal justice systems for years, including 16 recent Senate Bills that were passed by the chamber but not presented to the Governor.
“The deaths of Floyd, [Ahmaud] Arbery and Taylor have awoken Americans and Virginians to long-standing problems in policing in America,” the Virginia Senate Democrats stated in a press 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 Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus’ 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*
*Represents legislation introduced in prior sessions
The Senate Democrats’ measures would need to be considered and passed by the Democratic Party-controlled House of Delegates and signed by the Democrat Governor Ralph Northam to become law.