Bipartisan, bicameral effort to provide added court options for federal officers becomes law
Legislation sponsored by Senators Chris Coons and Chuck Grassley and Representatives Dave Reichert and Bill Pascrell, Jr. 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.
“When our law enforcement officers act bravely to stop a violent crime, they have earned our gratitude,” Senator Coons said. “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.”
“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,” Senator Grassley said. “This new law 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 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.