Legislation that would make it a crime to attempt to expose police officers to communicable diseases such as hepatitis B or HIV unanimously passed the state House of Representatives Tuesday.
State Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury, authored the bill after reading a news story that reported a person's attempting to pass on their disease to an officer during an arrest. But when he spoke to York City police Chief Wes Kahley about the incident, he learned current law protects only corrections officers from such assaults, and only in a prison or jail setting.
Having been an emergency medical technician for 34 years, Gillespie has seen such assaults first hand during DUI stops and drug overdoses.
"I have seen them many times myself during my history of working in an emergency room or as an EMS out on the highway, and these individuals can become very combative and attempting to contaminate not only police officers, but emergency services personnel, with various bodily fluids," Gillespie said. "As it stands right now if they try to infect a police officer and they are not in the confines of a jail they cannot be charged. This fixes a quirk in the law."
The legislation would create two new offenses:
If the person knows he has a communicable disease, it would be assault of law enforcement officer in the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
If the person doesn't know whether he has a communicable disease, it would be assault of law enforcement officer in the third degree, which draws up to seven years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
The bill now moves to the Senate, and Gillespie said he will reach out to his colleagues there to support the bill once the state budget and some other priority items are passed.
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