GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police

GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police
© Greg Nash

Republicans are reigniting efforts to crack down on people who hurt police officers with new mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynNew GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Ted PoeTed PoeA bipartisan solution to stopping drive-by lawsuits Harvey response puts squeeze on GOP US Senate must follow House lead in combating human trafficking MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Back the Blue Act to create new federal crimes for killing, attempting to kill or conspiring to kill a judge, federal law enforcement officer or federally funded public safety officer.  

Under the law, killing a judge or law enforcement officer would be punishable by death or a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison, while attempting to or conspiring to kill a judge or law enforcement officer would carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

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The legislation also creates new mandatory minimums for assaulting a law enforcement officer based on the extent of the injury and the use of a dangerous weapon.

Fleeing from justice to avoid prosecution for committing one of these crimes, meanwhile, would carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

The legislation, introduced during National Police Week, comes in the midst of an uproar over Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRhode Island announces plan to pay DACA renewal fee for every 'Dreamer' in state Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead NAACP sues Trump for ending DACA MORE’s order last week directing federal prosecutors to be tough on crime.

In a stark turnaround from Obama-era guidance, Sessions told prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible that by definition “carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimums.”

In response, Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program MORE (R-Ky.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Live coverage: Sanders rolls out single-payer bill MORE (D-Vt.) introduced legislation late Tuesday to give federal judges more discretion when handing down prison sentences.

The Justice Safety Valve Act gives federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate. 

Advocates for criminal justice claim the Back the Blue Act along with Sessions's order will once again fill federal prisons.

“Add this to the Sessions’ memo and they might as well just dissolve state legislatures and let Congress make all criminal justice policy,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

“No one condones violence, especially against our brave first responders, but why should punching a retired cop be a federal crime that requires a mandatory federal prison term? I think states can protect their officers. In fact, many states have already passed laws to address this issue.”

In a statement Tuesday, Leahy spokesman David Carle said the Vermont Senator has been pushing measures to better protect police with bullet proof vests, strengthen programs that provide death and educational benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement and authorize funding for an Anti-Heroin Task Force. 

“As far as mandatory minimum sentences are concerned, Leahy, especially as a former prosecutor, is one of many who by now have concluded that they are ineffective,” he said.