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Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort to Provide Additional Court Options for Federal Law Enforcement Officers Signed into Law

This news story was published on January 7, 2013.
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Senator Charles Grassley

Senator Charles Grassley

WASHINGTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Chris Coons of Delaware and Representatives Dave Reichert (WA-08) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8) was signed into law as part of the Defense Authorization Act.  The new law 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.

“Taxpayers train federal agents to protect and serve the American public.  They are expected to be ‘on-call’ at all times. To think that they would have to stand by while a victim suffers violent acts in their presence to protect themselves from being sued is contrary to the oath they take and is a waste of taxpayer funded training,” Grassley said.  “This new law will help make our communities safer and help those who are sworn to guard and serve the public.”

“When our law enforcement officers act bravely to stop a violent crime, they have earned our gratitude,” said Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus. “Now that the Officer Safety Act is the law of the land, we can be sure federal agents have access to a fair court process if they ever need it.”

“The first priority of law enforcement officers is the safety of their community.  As a former Sheriff, I know that this is true for officers on and off the job,” Rep. Reichert said. “With the signing of this bill, these brave men and women who sacrifice so much for their communities will receive the same protections both on and off duty.”

“This legislation will allow federal agents to protect Americans, whether they are on or off duty. Our federal law enforcement agents are highly trained professionals who often go above and beyond what is required of them – and put themselves in harm’s way in the process. They deserve our gratitude,” said Pascrell. “I am proud to help advance this bipartisan legislation on behalf of dedicated federal agents throughout the country who work to keep us safe.”

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 supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, and the National Border Patrol Council.    The bill text can be found by clicking here.

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