2016 was a volatile year for police and their encounters with citizens. A grass roots movement called Black Lives Matter gained a lot of media attention and traction in communities by highlighting incidents of “excessive force” (sometimes tragically) being used by police against black citizens.
What Are Blue Lives Matter Laws?
In response to these incidents, and violent acts directly targeting police, Louisiana and Mississippi have passed what are being called “Blue Lives Matter” laws, which make certain criminal acts against police and first responders, such as EMS and firefighters, a hate crime. Several other state legislatures including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New York are considering such laws.
While both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter make for excellent headlines, the actual legislation passed in Louisiana is fairly common sense litigation. While it does have a certain threatening overtone, with the possibility of getting two charges for one act, it is no more and no less than a person could receive for a criminal act targeting a particular ethnic minority or religious adherent because of that person’s ethnicity or religion.
What Do These Laws Entail?
The law provides that a person committing a violent crime (see list in La. R.S. 14:107.2) on a police officer, law enforcement agent or EMS worker because the victim is so employed, may be charged with an additional criminal charge for committing a hate crime. A misdemeanor offense is accompanied by a misdemeanor hate crime charge, and a felony offense is accompanied by a felony hate crime charge.
Therefore, an individual cannot be charged with a felony hate crime charge for resisting arrest for stealing a candy bar as claimed by some police chiefs in Louisiana, reported by local television news, and repeated in the national media.