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State Attorney Office issues 'zero-tolerance policy' for COVID-19-related threats against first responders

"While being detained and ultimately arrested, [she] informed the officer that she was infected with the COVID-19 virus, and coughed [on the officer]."
Generic photo of handcuffs

The State Attorney's Office has issued a "zero-tolerance policy" Thursday regarding any COVID-19 threats made against first responders and law enforcement, saying felony charges can be implemented.

"The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new and tremendous demands on our law enforcement and first responders," Chief Assistant L. E. Hutton said in a memo. "...They are likely to come into contact with an infected individual."

The memo details that intentional coughing can be charged as aggravated assault on an officer, and intentional touching or spitting can be charged as aggravated battery against an officer. However, "there would need to be proof that the defendant had previously tested positive for COVID-19," the memo states.

"...at least one incident in which a defendant, while being detained and ultimately arrested, informed the officer that she was infected with the COVID-19 virus, and then intentionally coughed into the fact," according to the memo.

If there is a threat of unlawful harm, a third-degree felony can be issued. If there is actual harm, a felony of the second-degree can be issued.

"In closing, our law enforcement and first responder partners are currently facing an incredibly challenging and dangerous environment due to the impact of COVID-19," the memo said. "Having them subjected to actual harm, or threats of harm from COVID-19, based on the intentional act of a defendant, will not be tolerated by this office... Moving forward, these cases must be treated with the utmost seriousness and require punitive sanctions upon conviction."

Read the memo below:

RE: Zero Tolerance for All COVID-19 Related Criminal Offenses Committed Against Law Enforcement and First RespondersDATE: April 2, 2020 We all understand that law enforcement and first responders play a critical role inprotecting our community. Our officers not only enforce the law but are also expectedto perform a wide variety of tasks, such as preventing crime, providing services, andmaintaining order.