CRIMINAL DEFENSE • DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATIONS & HEARINGS

New bill could cause accidents to be viewed as federal crimes

Posted July 28, 2017

Legislators recently introduced a new bill called the Back the Blue Act of 2017, which would make it a federal crime to “kill, or attempt or conspire to kill” a public safety officer who is funded by the federal government. At the time of the crime, the officer must be carrying out official responsibilities, or the crime must occur because of the officer’s official duties.

The bill, however, fails to include an important aspect of crime referred to as “mens rea,” or guilty mind. Mens rea differentiates between deadly accidents, or honest errors, and vicious crimes. It makes certain that people are penalized for deliberate transgressions of the law or purposeful, morally blameworthy behavior. According to the bill, the crime is punishable by fines and a prison term of 10 years to life for injuring such officers, and 30 years to life, or the death penalty if an officer is killed as a result of the injury.

The attempt and conspiracy crimes that are forbidden in the bill are specific intent crimes, meaning that prior to securing a conviction, the government must show that a defendant had the intent to carry out the offense.

Since the bill does not necessitate that a defendant plan to kill or even be aware that his victim was a “federally funded public safety officer,” its harsh penalties would be applicable if someone collided with the officer by accident, killing him. Thus, a crash that caused the death of a federally funded public safety officer could give rise to serious federal criminal liability, with the death penalty as the maximum form of punishment.

Most individuals who are accused of committing federal crimes plead guilty. In the majority of cases, the defendant enters into a plea bargain that frequently leads to a reduced charge or a more lenient sentence. If you are facing a charge of committing a federal crime, call the criminal defense attorneys at Brill Legal Group, P.C. They are very experienced in representing individuals and companies that are confronting federal criminal penalties.

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