WASHIGTON- U.S. Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) introduced the Back the Blue Act of 2016, a bill that would increase the penalties for cowardly criminals who intentionally target law enforcement officers, and provides new tools for officers to protect themselves.

“As a prosecutor for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of America’s best, the men and women behind the badge, said Poe. Each day these heroes go into the field, their families not knowing if they are going to return home. These officers separate the good from evil, a thin line that protects a civil society from anarchy. “

The bill also approves grant funding to foster relationships between the police departments and the local communities. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

“Peace officers risk their lives every day to administer justice and create order in our communities. In turn we must work together to support law enforcement. In Dallas and Baton Rouge, our officers have been attacked, harmed and killed for just doing their job. Assault in any way is wrong. This legislation promotes security for those that protect the rest of us. Today, Congress is sending the message that blue lives matter. The thin blue line stands strong.” 

Background on the Back the Blue Act

Creates New Criminal Provisions to Protect Law Enforcement Officers

  • Creates a new federal crime for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to the death penalty and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if death results; the offender would otherwise face a minimum sentence of 10 years.
  • Creates a new federal crime for assaulting a federally funded law enforcement officer with escalating penalties, including mandatory minimums, based on the extent of any injury and the use of a dangerous weapon. However, no prosecution can be commenced absent certification by the Attorney General that prosecution is appropriate.
  • Creates a new federal crime for interstate flight from justice to avoid prosecution for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer. The offender would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for this offense.

Creates a Specific Aggravating Factor for Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions

  • Clarifies that the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer or first responder is a statutory aggravating favor for purposes of the federal death penalty.

Limits Federal Habeas Relief for Murders of Law Enforcement Officers

  • Imposes time limits and substantive limits on federal courts’ review of challenges to state-court convictions for crimes involving the murder of a public safety officer, when the public safety officer was engaged in the performance of official duties or on account of the performance of official duties. These changes are consistent with the fast-track procedures created in 1996, which are applied to federal death penalty cases.

Limits Recovery of Certain Damages and Fees for Individuals Engaged in Felonies

  • Limits the type of civil damages and attorney’s fees recoverable by a criminal as a result of purported injuries incurred during the commission of a felony or crime of violence.

Expands Self-Defense and Second Amendment Rights for Law Enforcement Officers

  • Allows law enforcement officers, subject to limited regulation, to carry firearms into federal facilities and other jurisdictions where such possession is otherwise prohibited.

Opens Up Grant Funding to Strengthen Relationships Between Police and Communities

  • Expands opportunities to use grant funding to promote trust and improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve