Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge) wants to toughen penalties for people who physically assault those whose duty is to protect people.
He sponsors HF3610 that would increase the penalty for assaulting a peace officer from a gross misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.
“We need to do this for our officers. They deserve it,” Johnson said before the House passed the bill, as amended, 101-24 Wednesday.
It now goes to the Senate where Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) is the sponsor.
Johnson told a story from his law enforcement career of how he once got into an altercation with a much larger man who was under the influence of drugs. During the incident, the man tried to remove Johnson’s firearm from its holster, but with help from three others, the suspect was subdued. Because Johnson was not hurt, the man was only charged with a misdemeanor, which was the charge at the time.
“He was not held responsible for literally trying to kill me,” Johnson said. “… I don’t want anybody assaulting police officers.”
Under current law, it is a gross misdemeanor to assault a peace officer; however, if it results in demonstrable bodily harm, the charge is a felony.
Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) said it is “reprehensible” to assault an officer; however, he’s concerned about removing the distinction in current law.
“It takes away the incentive to not cause harm,” he said. “If someone’s going to be assaulting an officer anyway, they might as well assault them a little bit harder and cause more damage because the penalty is going to be the same.”
Among concerns addressed by opponents in the committee process is the consequences for someone with a felony on their record, and how it could negatively affect them for things like employment and housing. Nor do they believe an increased penalty would deter the few people willing to assault a peace officer.
Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) successfully amended the bill to protect officer privacy.
The amendment states: “It is a misdemeanor for a person to knowingly make available on the Internet personal information about a law enforcement official or an official's immediate family member, if the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat to the law enforcement official's safety or the safety of a law enforcement official's immediate family member, and the person making the information available on the Internet knows or reasonably should know of the imminent and serious threat.”
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