It may soon be a felony for a detained or incarcerated person to vomit on a law enforcement officer.
The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee approved SB97 Wednesday, which places vomit on the list of substances that are a third-degree felony to “propel” at a law officers’ face.
The list already includes saliva, blood, urine and fecal material. The proposed bill, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, also adds infectious agents or materials tainted with infectious agents to the list.
The committee also passed a separate proposed bill, SB98, which makes it a class B misdemeanor to intentionally throw or propel those bodily substances, including saliva, at a person who is not a law officer. It would be a class A misdemeanor if the thrower knows he or she is infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C and the substance contacts face or an open wound.
“Part of what is going on here is people coming up with new and improved ways of going after officers as they are being arrested or while incarcerated,” Stevenson said.
Steven L. Garside, assistant Layton City attorney, said prosecution and law enforcement groups asked Stevenson to carry the bill, which amends an existing law.
He said spitting was the most common occurrence, usually happening in a menacing situation that falls short of assault or threatening physical harm.
Steve Gehrke, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, said inmates in the prison’s maximum security and mental health units have been known to throw concoctions of bodily fluids at officers, something that happens about eight times a year.
Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher, R-West Valley City, voted against SB98, saying it was “terrible” that spitting on someone could land a person in jail for six months, although that already is covered under assault provisions in Utah’s code.