Panel Approves Bill to Increase Penalties for Assaulting Law Enforcement Officers

Assaults on New Jersey law enforcement officers have been increasing in recent years, prompting Assemblyman Alex Sauickie to propose a bill that would increase penalties for offenders. On Monday, the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee cleared his bill (A4697). The proposed legislation seeks to prevent attacks on law enforcement officers by stiffening penalties for those assaults.

Under the proposed legislation, anyone accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer would be charged with a second-degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $150,000. The legislation bars pleas to lesser charges. Currently, such assaults, which result in bodily harm to officers, are third-degree crimes that carry a maximum sentence of five years and a $15,000 fine. Whereas, assaults where no bodily harm results are fourth-degree crimes, with fines of $10,000 and prison sentences of 18 months.

The bill would require those using body fluids to attack officers to submit to communicable disease testing. This move is necessary as the number of attacks on law enforcement workers has been increasing exponentially over the last several years. According to officials, nearly half of those attacks involved body fluids. The Department of Corrections reported that in 2022, attacks on personnel jumped from 200 the previous year to 424. More than 10% of its 4,500-member workforce was out on leave due to assaults last year.

Assemblyman Sauickie (R-Ocean) said, “not only have attacks on law enforcement officers been increasing, attackers have been resorting to spitting, biting, and other depraved actions that put these men and women at risk for disease. Would-be attackers need to know that such violence will not be tolerated.” Officials from both the State Troopers Fraternal Association and New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, which represent state troopers and corrections officers respectively, supported the Assembly Bill.

The bill will cover attacks on Department of Corrections employees, county correctional police officers, juvenile correctional police officers, state juvenile facility employees, juvenile detention staff, probation officers, sheriffs, undersheriffs or sheriff’s officers and all municipal, county, or state law enforcement officers in New Jersey. Sauickie added that besides the dangers and risks involved in their line of duty, law enforcement workers are also exposed to vile attacks. He emphasized that those who target these brave men and women need to know that justice will be sought if they are attacked on the job.

The proposed legislation is a welcome development among law enforcement officers in New Jersey, who are often targeted and under threat while on duty. The bill would help deter would-be assailants from taking violent action against law enforcement officials, knowing the severe penalties that come with their actions. This bill seeks to enhance the protection and welfare of law enforcement workers and their families in the state of New Jersey.

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