If a prison inmate spits on a corrections officer, or hurls other bodily fluid, they can be charged. But, if during an arrest, someone spits, or releases any other bodily fluid on a police officer, they can not do anything about it. “There is a quirk in the law,” said Representative Keith Gillespie. “Prison corrections officers are covered by a statute, if inmates were to expose them to bodily fluids, but police officers are not.”
As a former paramedic, State Representative Keith Gillespie (R) 47th District, has been in situations like this. “I spent, unfortunately, as a paramedic, a lot of time with these individuals, rolling around on the ground with them, trying to subdue them, and the whole time they were trying to hurt us,” said Rep. Gillespie.
Rep. Gillespie proposed a bill that would protect police officers from bodily fluids. House bill 56 creates two new felony offenses.
Assault by Bodily Fluid, would be a 2nd-degree felony if a person intentionally or knowingly causes a law enforcement officer to come into contact with blood, seminal fluid, saliva, urine or feces, by tossing, throwing, spitting or expelling such fluid. This charge would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Assault by Bodily Fluid with Communicable Disease makes is a felony of the first degree for a person to intentionally or knowingly cause a law enforcement officer to come into contact with blood, seminal fluid, saliva, urine, or feces by throwing, tossing, spitting, or expelling such fluid when the person knew they had HIV or another communicable disease. A felony of the first degree carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, and a $25,000 fine.
“It’s serious business. Bodily fluids, depending what they may be carrying, Aids, Hepatitis C, is just as deadly as a knife or a bullet,” said Rep.Gillespie.
The bill recently passed the House of Representatives and now in the Senate for consideration. If passed, it would head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Police officers take an oath to protect and serve. Everyday they head out on calls not knowing what they may encounter. “A suspect they may be cut already so they may already have blood on them, and they may use that as a weapon. They definitely spit and bite us. Our officers are bitten quite often, which, then the skin is broken and the exchange of fluid takes place,” said York City Police Chief Wes Kahley.
Chief Kahley remembers his first exposure with a suspect’s bodily fluid, and the visit to the doctor afterwards. “They sit there and explain to you all of the diseases that you could have been exposed to, and the amount of time it is going to take before they show up into you. Sometimes you have to start taking medication at that time, or you can choose to wait until the results come in,” said Chief Kahley. “Your mind starts to run as to what you should and should not do, and what you are going to expose your family to. Often times it is, do you want to share food with your kids anymore? Do you want to kiss them goodnight?”
“There really needs to be a law out there when people purposely do this to us,” said Chief Kahley.