On Wednesday, Virginia’s Senate approved a bill that could lead to reduced penalties for what the legislation’s Democratic sponsor calls “insignificant” assaults on police.
Current Virginia law stipulates a six-month mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who is convicted of assaulting a police officer.
The bill summary of Senate Bill 5032 says that it “Eliminates the mandatory minimum term of confinement for a simple assault or an assault and battery committed against a judge; magistrate; law-enforcement officer; correctional officer; person directly involved in the care, treatment, or supervision of inmates; firefighter; or volunteer firefighter or any emergency medical services personnel.
“The bill provides that any person charged with such offense where the degree of culpability is slight, a jury or the court may find the accused not guilty of such offense but guilty of a simple assault or assault and battery, punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell said the bill is not aimed at serious assaults against police.
“What we’re talking about here are situations that involve much more insignificant minor touches,” Surovell said.
Surovell said he believes most charges for assaulting an officer are the result of an arrest that “becomes unnecessarily aggressive,” according to WAVY-TV.
The bill keeps assaulting a police officer a felony on paper, “but gives a judge or jury discretion to reduce it to a misdemeanor if there is no bodily injury or if someone’s culpability is slight because of diminished physical or mental capacity or a developmental disorder,” the AP reported.
Further, if the charge is not knocked down, a second investigation into the charge must be conducted by a police officer other than the one who was allegedly assaulted. A Commonwealth’s Attorney must also sign off on the felony charge.
Republicans said the bill was the wrong legislation at the wrong time.
“What in the world are we doing?” Republican state Sen. John Cosgrove Jr. said, the AP reported.
“Have you seen the attacks on police officers?”
Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase called the legislation “an attack on our law enforcement.”
The proposal tells criminals “that we’re going to stand back,” she said.
Virginia law would still have some mandatory minimum sentences for assault, according to the statute of which the new proposal would be a part.
“Any person who commits a simple assault or assault and battery is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and if the person intentionally selects the person against whom a simple assault is committed because of his race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin, the penalty upon conviction shall include a term of confinement of at least six months,” the law reads.
“However, if a person intentionally selects the person against whom an assault and battery resulting in bodily injury is committed because of his race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin, the person is guilty of a Class 6 felony, and the penalty upon conviction shall include a term of confinement of at least six months.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.