House seeks tougher penalties for first responder attacks

Posted April 3
Updated April 4

— State House lawmakers on Tuesday approved two different proposals to increase penalties for people who commit crimes against first responders, from law enforcement officers to firefighters to emergency medical technicians.

Several such bills have been filed this session, with sponsors saying that attacks on emergency personnel are increasingly frequent across the country.

The House Transportation committee debated House Bill 181{{/a]}, titled the "First Responders Act of 2017," Tuesday morning. One of the provisions in this omnibus measure would create a new "hate crime" against emergency personnel.

Under that provision, anyone who assaults an emergency responder causing serious bodily injury would be guilty of a Class H felony, using a gun in such an assault would be a Class F felony, and calling for help with the intent to lure emergency responders to a location where they can be attacked would be a Class E felony. Those enhanced charges would take effect Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, the House State and Local Government committee passed {{a href="external_link-16623368"}}House Bill 492, which casts an even wider net, increasing penalties for attacks or threats against elected officials as well as for attacks on emergency responders.

Under House Bill 492, an attack on emergency personnel, medical personnel, or hospital personnel would be a Class H felony, an attack causing serious injury would be a Class F felony, and use of a firearm would increase it to a Class E felony.

The measure also includes enhanced punishments for anyone who attacks emergency personnel during a state of emergency or in the "immediate vicinity" where a riot is either happening or "is imminent," and it increases penalties by one felony class for assaults committed against "an executive, legislative, or court officer," as well as for threatening to harm those officers, including via email, text message or voicemail.

Sponsor Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Swain, said he had been assaulted three times while working as a firefighter.

House Bill 181 now heads to the House floor, while House Bill 492 moves to House Judiciary II Committee.

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  • William James Apr 4, 2017
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    What it the Real Purpose or Intent of this new law? Its being sold as a bill to protect emergency workers, court, and elected officials, but how are our current laws deficient? I've never heard of any Police, EMS, Judge, or Elected official being assaulted or killed and the criminals getting off with a light sentence. Personally I don't know anyone out of prison who hurt or killed a Officer, but I know plenty who are out that killed regular citizens. Personally I think the real intent of this law is to intimidate and discourage Protests, because under this law the police can simply proclaim a situation as an emergency, arrest by standers, and/or charge those who in any way resist the police.