Legislation that would make attacking police officers and judges a hate crime cleared the Texas Senate on Tuesday. Now the measure heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.
Under House Bill 2908, making a terroristic threat that puts a police officer or judge in fear of imminent bodily injury would be a state jail felony, which carries a sentence of up to two years in jail.
Unlawfully restraining or assaulting a police officer or judge would be a second-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Any crime against either group that results in serious bodily injury would be a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison.
The legislation is an answer to two recent attacks: the 2016 ambush that left six Dallas police officers dead and many more injured, and the 2015 attack on state District Judge Julie Kocurek outside her Austin home. Kocurek survived the attack. (A separate bill focusing on court security cleared both chambers this week.)
Since those tragedies, state lawmakers have prioritized bills supporting police and judges. Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and other officials have called for enhanced penalties for attacking law enforcement.
“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Abbott said when pushing for such legislation.
In Texas, hate crimes are offenses committed with a bias or prejudice against someone's "race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference," according to state law.
If it gets Abbott's sign-off, as expected, the bill will take effect Sept. 1.