The House Judiciary Committee adopted House Bill 2770 on Thursday and sent it to the floor with a full recommendation for passage. The bill, sponsored by the committee’s minority chairman Delegate John Ellem, along with a bipartisan group of Delegates, would add court security staff to a list of enforcement officers who provide an increased penalty when hostile acts are committed against them.
Court security personnel includes any person employed by the circuit court, family court, magistrate court, county commission or sheriffs office that enforces the laws of the state.
The bill addresses a section of the West Virginia code that pertains to assault and battery charges on law enforcement officers. A person would be charged with assault felony who maliciously causes bodily injury with the intent to harm or kill an officer and could be confined in a correctional facility from three to 15 years.
Likewise, a person who intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature would be charged with a battery misdemeanor and could be jailed for one to 12 months, fined 500 dollars, or both.
A number of security officers are presently stipulated in the code, including: police officers, conservation officers, probation officers, humane officers, EMS personnel, firefighters, Division of Forestry employees, and correctional employees.
“I am pleased that members of both the Republican and Democratic parties were able to join together and recognize the need for a more inclusive bill. Court personnel come into contact with potentially dangerous criminal defendants every day, and I think both sides of the aisle recognize the appropriateness of this code revision,” Delegate Ellem said.
“In fact, recently in Wood County, a member of the court security was assaulted by an individual who was trying to break into the Prosecutor’s Office. If someone chooses to assault an officer of the court in their capacity as one acting on behalf of the state, it’s important that there are measures in place that penalize the offender and deter future crimes against law enforcement.”