(CNS News) -- When asked whether they supported legislation that would reduce the penalty for assaulting a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor, the offices of six Virginia House Delegates, all Democrats, did not respond.
The delegates are Dawn Adams (68th District), Lashrecse Aird (63rd District), Alex Askew (85th District), Hala Ayala (51st District), Eileen Filler-Corn (41st District), and Charniele Herring (46th District).
In emails and phone calls to the delegates' offices, CNS News asked the following question, "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 EMS personnel. This legislation is now in the House of Delegates. Question: Do you support the House version of SB5032, yes or no?"
Although CNS News contacted those offices on Sept. 2, 3, and 8 (Del. Filler-Corn on 9/2, 9/3), the offices did not respond. (A receptionist for Del. Ayala advised that the question be re-sent by email. This was done on Sept. 9 but no response was received before this story was posted.)
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.
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."
Democrats hold a 10-seat majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, 55-45.
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."
Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R- 3rd District) said of the legislation, “Very candidly, for those who are advocating it — particularly in the current lawless atmosphere — I wonder what they have been smoking."
As reported by WTKR news, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Surovell (D- 36th District), said, "The vast, vast, vast majorities of these bills [assaults] do not involve any kind of injuries. They involve slight contact. They shouldn't be felonies."