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Will legislation increasing punishment for police assault move forward?

Earlier this week, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine a bill recently filed by Governor Charlie Baker, as well as a companion bill filed by Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn), that would greatly increase the penalties for committing an assault and battery upon a police officer.

Consideration of the bills in question, which were filed last month following the fatal shooting of an officer with the Auburn Police Department during a routine traffic stop, come at an incredibly difficult time for our state and the nation as a whole.

What exactly is called for by this legislation?

The bills in question would reclassify the crime of assault and battery upon a police officer from a misdemeanor to a felony, and call for those convicted to be punished by up to ten years in prison (with a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year).

It would also grant judges the authority to determine whether those suspected of assault and battery upon a police officer are sufficiently dangerous to be held without bail pending trial.

Has anyone come out against the legislation?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has officially registered its opposition to the legislation, arguing that it's wholly unnecessary given that there are currently adequate assault and battery laws on the books outlining rather steep penalties, including assault and battery with serious bodily injury and assault with intent to murder. The group also argued that the legislation's desired deterrent effect would be non-existent.

Another group to register its opposition to the legislation was Digital Fourth, a cyber-focused civil liberties group, which voiced concerns about state lawmakers moving too quickly and the chilling affect the bills could have on the right to protest.

Will it pass?

It remains unclear at this point whether this legislation will become pass given that it was filed so late in the session. Indeed, there are now less than two weeks remaining.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you are under investigation or have been charged with assault and battery, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options moving forward. 

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