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Relating to increasing the criminal penalty for certain offenses committed in retaliation for or on account of a person's service or status as a public servant.
Expanding the set of behaviors that allow for enhanced punishment for a criminal offense is expected to result in additional demands on the correctional resources of the counties or of the State. The probable fiscal impact of implementing the bill is indeterminate due to the lack of information on the number of cases in which the victims were public servants. This information is necessary to isolate cases which would qualify, under the provisions of the bill, for penalty enhancements, from all other cases.
HB 624 would create penalty enhancements for certain offenses, including arson, harassment, and criminal trespass, if the offense is done in retaliation against a public servant or their family. If it is shown at trial that a defendant committed an applicable offense in retaliation against a public servant for performing their duties, the punishment would be increased to the next highest category of offense. If the offense is normally designated as a Class A misdemeanor, HB 624 would require a minimum of 180 days confinement.
Public servant is defined in the law as an officer or employee of the government, a juror, an arbitrator, an attorney performing a governmental function, or a candidate for public office.
We are generally cautious of creating penalty enhancements based on the class of victim, or enhancements which would be disproportionate to the offense. However, it is important to prevent intimidation, harassment, and violence against public officials for the discharge of their public duties. We do not find the enhancements proposed by this bill to be disproportionate. For these reasons we are neutral on HB 624.