Senators advanced a bill May 4 that would create a crime of assault with a bodily fluid against a public safety officer — a tactic commonly used by inmates.
Under LB226, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor, a person who intentionally strikes a public safety officer with a bodily fluid could be found guilty of a Class I misdemeanor. If the offender knows he or she is infected with HIV, AIDS or hepatitis B or C, the offense would be a Class IIIA felony.
The bill also would allow search warrants for the collection of body fluids or medical records to prosecute such crimes.
“The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 30 percent of inmates in the country are infected with viruses,” Gloor said. “In Nebraska, in the last four years, there have been 223 cases of [assault with bodily fluids],” he added.
“This [bill] is to make sure that safety officers are treated respectfully,” he said.
A Judiciary Committee amendment would clarify that the bodily fluid must strike a public safety officer in order for a violation to occur. If an offender’s infected fluid strikes the eyes, mouth or skin of a public safety officer and he or she knew the fluid was infected at the time of the offense, he or she could be convicted of a felony.
The amendment also would exclude youth rehabilitation and treatment officers from the bill.
Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley offered an amendment to the committee amendment that would include employees of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) in Kearney and Geneva in the definition of public safety officers.
Since 2008, approximately 200 assaults on YRTC employees resulted in injuries requiring medical attention, Hadley said, yet they are excluded from this bill.
“I believe [the bill] should have the same protection for these employees,” he said.
North Platte Sen. Tom Hansen spoke in support of the amendment, saying juveniles should face prosecution if they commit such an act. Juveniles who escape treatment facilities can be prosecuted, he said, so they should be prosecuted for throwing bodily fluids at YRTC workers.
Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash opposed the amendment and said the bill was intended to address a problem that corrections workers have experienced, not treatment workers.
“There is a difference between treating somebody and administering justice in the [state] Department of Corrections,” Coash said. “You do not make childrens’ issues better by turning them into felons.”
Omaha Sen. Brenda Council also opposed the Hadley amendment and said there are differences between a youth rehabilitation center and a secure youth detention facility.
“In this amendment, [juveniles] would be subject to prosecution and it could create conflicts between judicial jurisdictions with the possibility of additional costs,” Council said.
Hadley’s amendment was adopted 27-13.
The committee amendment was adopted 37-3 and the bill advanced from general file on a 35-5 vote.