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Baker Files Legislation Calling for Increased Penalties for Assaulting Police Officers

Friday, June 24, 2016

 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation to strengthen court procedures and increase the penalty for individuals charged with assaulting a police officer from a misdemeanor to a felony when causing bodily harm. 

“Police officers have difficult and dangerous jobs and the current law does not allow for adequate penalties for those who assault officers and cause them serious harm. We owe it to law enforcement and to the community at large to appropriately recognize the seriousness of such assaults and seek a penalty that is in line with the gravity of such an offense,” said Baker. 

Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett added, “Being able to hold someone who has committed a serious assault on a police officer would be a significant step toward keeping dangerous individuals off the streets as they await trial.”

The bill proposes changes which would give the courts an enhanced ability to deal with individuals who have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for law enforcement and who pose a threat to public safety. 

The Changes 

The legislation that Baker is proposing would make three changes in the way that courts could respond to those who commit assaults and batteries on police officers. 

First, in cases where the person causes serious bodily injury to the police officer, the penalty will be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony and the maximum sentence will be increased from two and a half to 10 years in state prison. 

Second, in cases where a person causes serious bodily injury to a police officer, judges will be precluded from continuing the case without a finding, placing the defendant on probation, or giving the defendant a suspended sentence. These are not appropriate punishments when a person breaks a police officer’s jaw or arm, blinds an officer, or causes an injury that result in a substantial risk of death. Instead, judges will be required to impose a sentence of at least one year of incarceration in cases involving this type of serious injury.

Finally, the bill would allow judges to consider whether individuals charged with this offense present a danger to the community and, in appropriate cases, hold the person pretrial. Under current law, judges are required to release a person charged with assaulting a police officer in the line of duty without considering whether that person is a danger to the community. While not every person who commits this offense necessarily presents a danger to the community such that he or she should be held pretrial, the nature of the offense is such that a court should at least be permitted to ask the question.

 

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