Monday, June 11, 2012

New law will allow officers to make arrests in emergency-room assaults that they do not witness

Emergency-room workers who treat individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have greater legal protection, and those who misbehave in ERs will have less protection, under a law that will take effect next month.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, will allow peace officers to make an arrest or issue a citation for a fourth-degree assault that occurs in a hospital emergency room, even if the officer didn’t witness the crime, as long as the officer has probable cause to believe the offense occurred.

“Hospital emergency personnel treat individuals in the worst of conditions – and sometimes that means putting themselves at risk, if a patient comes in intoxicated or high,” Gov. Steve Beshear said at a ceremonial signing of the bill today.  “This law gives medical staff the security of knowing that an offender will be held accountable for an assault that takes place when they’re brought in for care.”

Under current law, a hospital worker has to swear out a warrant alleging assault. Fourth-degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

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