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I DO Agree With the Dems on the Assault and Battery on Police Reform…

And Here’s Why

Most of the Dem ideas about police I have mixed feelings about. I certainly do not favor defunding the police. But I am in favor of banning chokeholds, I am willing to look at a limit on qualified immunity in civil cases (I was pleased that the Virginia Black Caucus came out for a reform of sovereign immunity! That might be a future blog post but until then, here is a post or two on it for my readers.), there should be civilian review boards in every jurisdiction and perhaps my biggest agreement is that first offense simple assault and battery on a law enforcement officer be a misdemeanor. Here’s why – two big reasons:

  • Assault and battery is an unbelievably crime to commit. ANY rude or angry touching of another person without consent is assault and battery.

You are pulled over and there is a warm discussion with the officer. You are upset. Let’s say you hand the pen back to the officer in an angry manner that touches the officer’s hand or arm.

BAM! That’s a felony!

That might be okay if there were prosecutors that exercised discretion to evaluate assaults and gave some situations like the one above a break. BUT…

  • Prosecutors tend to strictly prosecute these cases probably to support a constituency or to curry favor with another constitutional officer – the sheriff.

Actually, this law was “beefed up” some years ago – it was a misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Compare the present law:

In addition, if any person commits an assault or an assault and battery against another knowing or having reason to know that such other person is a ….a law-enforcement officer as defined in subsection F,…such person is guilty of a Class 6 felony, and, upon conviction, the sentence of such person shall include a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months.

with the law in 1997 (the italicized part is what was added in 1997):

Any person who shall commit a simple assault or assault and battery shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and if the person intentionally selects the person against whom a simple assault is committed because of his race, religious conviction, color or national origin, the penalty upon conviction shall include a mandatory, minimum term of confinement of at least six months, thirty days of which shall not be suspended, in whole or in part.

B. However, if a person intentionally selects the person against whom the offense an assault and battery resulting in bodily injury is committed because of his race, religious conviction, color or national origin, the person shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony, and the penalty upon conviction shall include a mandatory, minimum term of confinement of at least six months, thirty days of which shall not be suspended, in whole or in part.

C. In addition, if any person commits an assault or an assault and battery against another knowing or having reason to know that such other person is a law-enforcement officer, as defined hereinafter, or firefighter, as defined in з 65.2-102, engaged in the performance of his public duties as a law-enforcement officer or firefighter, such person shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony, and, upon conviction, the sentence of such person shall include a mandatory, minimum term of confinement in jail for six months.

I certainly think that law enforcement ought to be protected and the best way to do that is a mandatory minimum jail sentence for assault and battery, say 30 days. So, I would agree with making first offense simple assault and battery on law enforcement is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of $2500.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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