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Legislation to Provide Additional Court Options for Federal Law Enforcement Officers Clears Senate


This news story was published on December 10, 2012.
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WASHINGTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley that would allow federal law enforcement officers who acted under their official duties and charged with a crime in state court an opportunity to petition to have the agent’s case heard before a federal court was included in the Defense Authorization bill currently being considered by the Senate.  The Defense Authorization Act is expected to clear the Senate this week and then must be reconciled with the House passed bill.

“Federal agents are extensively trained, at taxpayer expense, to protect and serve the American public and are never off-duty. To expect them to stand by while a victim suffers violent acts in their presence is contrary to the oath they take to protect others and is a waste of taxpayer funded training,” Grassley said.  “This bill will help make our communities safer and help those who are sworn to guard and serve the public.”

The Officer Safety Act of 2012 is modeled after the Good Samaritan Act, but is narrower, more restrictive, and provides no liability protection.  The bill does not provide immunity to federal law enforcement officers, but simply allows for case removal to federal court where the officer will be required to defend his or her actions.  In addition, it doesn’t infringe upon states’ rights, as they retain the same rights that have existed since the early 1800’s.

Specifically, the Officer Safety Act of 2012
•    allows a federal law enforcement agent, who stops a violent crime while off-duty and is indicted in a state court for those actions, to petition for the state criminal prosecution against him to be removed to a federal court, and

•    clarifies the “color of law” prong required in the removal process, as courts have invited Congress to clarify.

The bill was introduced on March 30, 2012 and was cosponsored by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.  Congressmen Dave Reichert (WA-08) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives.  Similar legislation was introduced by Congressman Dan Lungren (CA-03).  The Grassley bill is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, and the National Border Patrol Council.  The text of the bill can be found by clicking here.

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