Virginia Democrats draft proposal to downgrade assault on police to misdemeanor

Virginia Democrats are proposing a long list of criminal justice reforms in response to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, but while some of them – such as banning chokeholds – are aimed at protecting citizens, at least one measure could reduce protection for officers.

According to a document shared by multiple local reporters and retweeted by the Virginia Senate Democrats, the proposals include downgrading the charge of assault on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

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“The Senate Democratic Caucus has led and is continuing to conduct a series of community conversations to discuss these issues and we have heard from the public that now is not the time for studies or delay and that changes must be made during our Special Session,” says the document, which is titled, "Senate Democratic Caucus Police Reform and Criminal Justice Equity Plan."

It goes on to say, “We will continue to take public input and work with stakeholders, the House of Delegates, state agencies, and Governor Ralph Northam to refine these measures over the next 60 days.”

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Currently, assaulting an officer is a Class 6 felony with a minimum penalty of six months in jail and a maximum of five years. Misdemeanors carry a one-year maximum and no minimum.

In addition to reducing the consequences for assaulting an officer, the proposals also include a number of restrictions that would be imposed on police officers to limit the use of force. These proposals include required attempts to de-escalate situations before using force, as well as issuing warnings and exhausting “all other means” before firing shots.

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The proposals also call for canceling supplemental funding to local police departments if they have had “disproportionate use of force incidents in their jurisdiction.” It is unclear if funding would be stripped automatically, or if the departments would have an opportunity to handle incidents internally first.

Fox News reached out to the Senate Democratic Caucus for details, but they did not immediately respond.

Additional proposed reforms include prohibiting the searches of people or vehicles based on an odor of marijuana if there is no suspicion of any other offenses, and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.

“The Senate Democratic Caucus has led in the area of Criminal Justice Reform for years and we look forward to working with the Governor and the House of Delegates to collaboratively enact these policies,” the document says.