Bill seeks federal mandatory minimums for violence against police

Recently introduced legislation would establish steep federal mandatory minimum sentences for various violent acts against peace officers.

In Texas, violence against a peace officer is a serious offense that can carry steep consequences. Under the Texas Penal Code, the murder of a peace officer is a capital offense that can be punished with life in prison or the death penalty. The assault of a peace officer is a third degree felony that can result in sanctions of two to 10 years of incarceration.

Although these penalties are already significant, legislation that a Texas lawmaker recently introduced could soon make the consequences of these offenses even more severe. The bill in question, The Back the Blue Act of 2016, would establish new federal charges for these offenses along with mandatory minimum sentences.

New criminal offenses

As The Texas Tribune reports, the bill would allow for federal prosecution of crimes against public safety officers, federal judges and federal law enforcement authorities. These crimes would include murder, attempted murder and assault. Fleeing out of state to avoid prosecution for any of the above offenses would also provide grounds for federal criminal charges under the Act.

Harsher sanctions

The Act also aims to establish harsher minimum penalties for a number of offenses against the public servants specified above. According to U.S. News, these sanctions include:

  • A minimum of 30 years of incarceration for a conviction of murder, along with eligibility for the death penalty
  • At least 20 years of incarceration for a conviction of assault involving a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • A minimum of 10 years of imprisonment for a conviction of attempted murder
  • Ten or more years of incarceration for a conviction of assault resulting in serious bodily injury
  • At least 5 years of imprisonment for assault causing "substantial bodily injury"

Furthermore, a conviction of assault causing any form of bodily injury - including minor wounds - would result in at least two years of imprisonment.

Potential ramifications

U.S. News notes that the passage of this bill could result in thousands of Americans facing serious sanctions, since assault of a peace officer is a fairly common crime. In 2014 alone, over 48,000 alleged assaults against peace officers were recorded. Annually, about one out of 10 police officers report experiencing at least one assault.

This bill could also have serious impacts on people who have already been criminally convicted of capital crimes against a public safety officer. Specifically, the bill would place limitations on appeals of prior convictions of homicide of a peace officer.

Crafting a defense

This legislation underscores the serious potential consequences that can follow accusations of violent crimes, particularly when those alleged offenses are against public servants. It's imperative that people facing these accusations protect their interests by consulting with an attorney who understands the challenges of mounting a defense against these charges. An attorney may be able to help a person question the validity of the charges or seek a less severe final outcome.

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