Last week, our blog discussed how Attorney General Jeff Session’s recent order directing all 94 U.S. Attorneys to start charging and pursuing the most “serious” offenses, meaning those carrying “the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences,” was already creating considerable controversy.
Interestingly enough, while legal circles across the nation were still trying to process what exactly this would mean going forward, another controversial tough-on-crime measure was introduced — or reintroduced — by the federal government.
Specifically, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reintroduced the Back the Blue Act last Tuesday to coincide with National Police Week.
As before, the measure calls for the creation of a new federal crime for those whose actions target law enforcement officials. Specifically, it dictates the following:
- The murder of a judge, federal law enforcement officer or federally funded public safety officer would be punishable by a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison or death
- Any attempt or conspiracy to murder a judge, federal law enforcement officer or federally funded public safety officer would be punishable by a mandatory minimum of 10 years.
- The assault of a judge, federal law enforcement officer or federally funded public safety officer would be punishable by a mandatory minimum dependent upon the degree of physical harm inflicted and the involvement of a weapon.
- Flight to avoid prosecution for the above crimes would be punishable by a mandatory minimum of 10 years.
In the previous version of this bill, introduced last summer, a “federally funded public safety officer” was defined to include any police officer, jailer, probation officer or parole officer who work for agencies that receive federal financial assistance. In other words, the act would cover virtually every law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal level.
The reintroduction of the Back the Blue Act was once again greeted with a less than enthusiastic response by many legal advocacy groups, the majority of which expressed concerns that this measure, together with AG Session’s recent memo, will only serve to increase the prison population and erode the power of state governments.
“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?,” said the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “I think states can protect their officers. In fact, many states have already passed laws to address this issue.”
It’s worth noting that on the same day the Back the Blue Act was reintroduced, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) introduced another measure, the Justice Safety Valve Act, that would enable federal judges to hand down sentences below the mandatory minimum when circumstances permit.
Stay tuned for updates …
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you are under investigation or have been charged with any manner of federal crime, as the stakes are simply too high.