(CNS News) -- Democrats in the Virginia Senate voted unanimously in August in favor of legislation to reduce the penalty for assaulting a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor. Senate Republicans opposed the measure.
The legislation is now in the Virginia House. But when asked whether they support the proposal, the offices of 14 Democratic delegates, so far, have not responded to CNS News' inquiries.
On Wednesday, CNS News reported that the offices of 6 delegates had not responded. As of Friday, Sept. 11, the offices of another 8 delegates had not responded, despite emails and telephone messages left with each office.
Those eight House Delegate offices are: Lamont Bagby (74th District), Jeffrey Bourne (71st District), David Bulova (37th District), Betsy Carr (69th District), Jennifer Carroll-Foy (2nd District), Lee Carter (50th District), Joshua Cole (28th District), and Kelly Convirs-Fowler (21st District).
In emails and a telephone message to those offices, CNS News asked,
On Aug. 26, the Virginia Senate passed SB 5032, which would give a judge or a jury discretion in whether to impose a misdemeanor penalty (instead of the prescribed felony) for a simple assault of a police officer, judge, or firefighter. This legislation is now in the House of Delegates. Question: Do you support the House version of SB5032, yes or no?
Several Republican House delegates have said they oppose the measure but not one of the Democrat House delegates queried, so far, has responded to the question.
Under current Virginia law, the assault of a police officer (also firefighter, judge, prison guard) is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum six-month jail sentence, and a potential fine of up to $2,500.
The new legislation, SB 5032, would not change the assault/felony statute but it would allow a judge or jury, using their discretion, to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, and it would eliminate the mandatory prison sentence.
As the bill states, "Eliminates the mandatory minimum term of confinement for a simple assault or an assault and battery committed against a judge; magistrate; law-enforcement officer; correctional officer; person directly involved in the care, treatment, or supervision of inmates; firefighter; or volunteer firefighter or any emergency medical services personnel.
"The bill provides that any person charged with such offense where the degree of culpability is slight, a jury or the court may find the accused not guilty of such offense but guilty of a simple assault or assault and battery, punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor."
Commenting on the legislation, Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Associated Press, “We should be doing more to protect officers instead of sending a message that assaulting them is not a serious offense."
As reported by WTKR news, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Surovell (D- 36th District), said, "The vast, vast, vast majorities of these [assaults] do not involve any kind of injuries. They involve slight contact. They shouldn't be felonies."
Democrats hold a 10-seat majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, 55-45.