Coughlin Bill to Protect Law Enforcement Officers Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) sponsored to enhance the punishment for assaulting certain law enforcement officers and employees who are targeted because of their work in law enforcement was approved 71-0 Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

“This is not an easy job. These officers risk injury or worse when they report for work,” said Coughlin. “It is important that we make it clear that if you assault one of these officers simply because of the work that they do, you will be charged with aggravated assault and punished accordingly.”

The bill (A-3836) would upgrade simple assault to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against certain law enforcement officers and employees because of their job status.

Under current law, simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against a Department of Corrections employee, county corrections officer, juvenile corrections officer, state juvenile facility employee, juvenile detention staff member, juvenile detention officer, probation officer, or any sheriff, undersheriff, or sheriff’s officer while they are engaged in their duties.

This bill clarifies that simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against any of these law enforcement officers or employees because of their status as a staff member, probation officer, corrections employee, undersheriff, or other law enforcement officer.

Aggravated assault under current law is a crime of the third degree if the victim suffers bodily injury; otherwise it is a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years; a fine of up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment for not more than 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

“Law enforcement work is inherently dangerous. Sometimes the uniform can be enough of a provocation for troublemakers,” said Coughlin. “Law enforcement officers have enough to deal with without having to worry about this additional threat. This bill can help by serving as a deterrent.”

The bill now goes to the governor.