If the Idaho Division of Financial Management has its way in the next legislative session, all city and state employees in Idaho will have enhanced legal protections from assault and battery that occur as a result of performing their official duties.
The department has submitted a proposal to the office of Gov. Butch Otter that would change state law creates permits enhanced penalties on specific city and state employees who fall victims crime as a result of their work for the government. Police officers, sheriffs, judges, public defenders, and emergency medical technicians, and some private sector workers are already covered by the law.
The governor’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, explained that the move is merely housekeeping and an update to outdated law. “Some of the positions don’t exist anymore and… the current list is incomplete,” he said. Hanian pointed out that prosecutors would have discretion on whether or not to apply enhanced penalties on an individual case-to-case basis.
The law protects employees only during or as a result of the execution of an employee’s official duties. It does not protect employees during personal individual disputes.
“If two neighbors had a fight over a fence line, and one of them happened to be a state employee, the new laws wouldn’t legally protect one more than the other,” said Hanian. “They would be dealt with equally by local officials.”
The law states that the penalty for committing assault or battery on one of the classified employees is imprisonment up to 25 years. It also punishes “unlawful touching” of the listed workers with up to 5 years in prison, a sentence that would run consecutive of other jail time.
The Idaho Department of Labor submitted similar legislation earlier this year, but that's proposal's scope was limited to labor department employees only. The request was withdrawn when the two bills were combined to produce one bill that would protect all state employees.
Bob Fick with the Department of Labor said there have been no physical exchanges yet, but the department is concerned, “People are becoming agitated in our offices due to rising unemployment and employers are becoming agitated due to higher tax rates for their businesses.” Fick also said that there have been a few instances in the past year when consultants for the department have been threatened.