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Newly-Passed Bill Broadens Texas Hate Crime Law to Include Protections for Police, Judges

Via: ReleaseWire

Updated 9:45 AM CDT, Thu, June 22,2017

Texas HB 2908 Will Increase Penalties for Crimes Against Police Officers and Judges If Proven They Were Targeted Because of Their Vocation.

Dallas, TX -- (ReleaseWire) -- 06/22/2017 -- Following the passage of House Bill 2908 on May 23, police officers and judges are poised to be included among the protected classes covered by the state's hate crime statute. Also referred to as the Police Protection Act, the bill would include the same enhanced penalties for crimes specifically targeted at judges and law enforcement personnel as are currently established for crimes committed based on the victim's gender, race, religion, age, sexual preference or disability status. Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to approve the measure promptly and set the stage for the legislation to go into effect as of September 1, 2017.

The bill was first proposed by Gov. Abbott last July following Micah Xavier Johnson's shooting spree at a July 7, 2016 protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Johnson killed five Dallas law enforcement officers and wounded nine more before being killed himself following a two-hour standoff with police. An amendment to the bill on May 12 extended hate crime protections for judges as well. This addition was prompted by Judge Julie Kocurek's March testimony in front of a Texas Senate committee. Kocurek was specifically targeted by a defendant in one of her cases and was shot four times in front of her home in November 2015.

When signed into law, the legislation will increase the penalties for crimes against police officers and judges by one level when the prosecution can demonstrate that the victim was targeted due to their job. Making terroristic threats against police officers or judges that place the victim in fear of imminent bodily harm will become a state jail felony with a maximum jail sentence of two years. Assaulting or unlawfully restraining a police officer or judge will become a second-degree felony with a punishment of up to 20 years in prison, while any crime that leads to serious bodily harm will be raised to a first-degree felony with a 99-year maximum sentence.
For a comprehensive list of the different types of Texas felonies and the penalties that go along with them, please see this page:

When first proposing the legislation, Gov. Abbott asserted that the bill was necessary to "send a resolute message" that Texas stands by its law enforcement officials. However, critics of the bill assert that hate crime statutes are not intended to protect occupations. In addition, the bill's detractors point out that the Texas legal code already prescribes sentencing enhancements for crimes targeted against police.

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