House panel moves bill targeting cop killers, giving more latitude to police use of force

police car lights
Jessica Baker's bill has 2 committee stops to go.

People killing police officers will spend life behind bars, if a new bill advanced by a committee in the House becomes law.

HB 1657, sponsored by Rep. Jessica Baker of Jacksonville, would impose a manslaughter charge on those whose actions during an incident leave police officers dead, with a statutory penalty of life without parole.

The legislation would also clarify legislative intent regarding the rights of law enforcement officers, repealing a ban on the use of force if the officer knows an arrest is “unlawful,” and amending statute further to use force “in the performance of his or her official duties.” Current language stipulates that the officer must be engaged “in the lawful performance of a legal duty.”

Baker said her “bill protects our law enforcement officers by updating and clarifying confusing language in our statute to reflect what the case law holds in situations of batteries on law enforcement officers.” She holds that case law is “very clear” in asserting “no right to commit a battery on a law enforcement officer who is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties when acting within the scope of their employment.”

“Questions about the stop, about the arrest and detention,” she added, “should be raised in a courtroom and not with violence on the street.”

Ranking member Michele Rayner drilled down on language in the bill saying this applied to both “lawful and unlawful” arrests, which Baker said was intended to eliminate juror “confusion.” The sponsor said that even during a “technically illegal” arrest without “reasonable suspicion,” case law bans battery against cops regardless.

Rayner wasn’t sold. She ended up as one of three “no” votes against 15 in favor of the bill.

R.J. Larizza, the 7th Circuit State Attorney who leads the office Baker has worked at as an Assistant State Attorney, spoke in favor of the legislation, saying it helped with “proactive policing,” which has lowered the crime rate over time.

“To be able to argue that a law enforcement officer may have lacked reasonable suspicion and allowed that to be a defense for an individual to kill a law enforcement officer, in my humble opinion, is a travesty,” Larizza said.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association supports the bill. The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, meanwhile, is opposed.

The Senate version of this bill (SB 1092) is being carried by Jonathan Martin. His bill has yet to have its first committee hearing.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Julia

    January 25, 2024 at 5:45 pm

    I ­­­­­­a­­m ­­­­ma­­k­­i­­ng 28­­5­­ Dollars e­­a­­ch­­ h­­o­­u­­r ­­­­f­­o­­r w­­o­­r­­ki­­n­­g­­ ­­­­on­­l­­i­­n­­e. ­­I n­­e­­v­­e­­r ­­­­t­­h­­o­­u­­g­­h­­t t­­h­­a­­t ­­­­i­­t ­­­­w­­a­­s ­­­­l­eg­­i­­t­­ b­­u­­t­­­­ ­­m­­y b­­e­­s­­t­­­­ ­­f­­r­­i­­e­­n­­d­­ ­­e­­a­­r­­n­­s ­­­­29,0­­0­­0 d­­o­­l­­l­­a­­r­­s ­­­­ev­­e­­r­­y ­­m­­o­­n­­t­­h ­­d­­­­o­­i­­n­­g t­­h­­i­­s ­­a­­n­­d­ ­br30 s­­h­­e sh­­o­­w­­e­­d m­­e­­ ­­h­­o­­w­.

    C­­h­­e­­c­­k­­ It………………………….

  • MH/Duuuval

    January 25, 2024 at 5:54 pm

    “…statutory penalty of life without parole.”

    Better than being asphyxiated or electrocuted, I guess. And, there’s still a possibility of exoneration for those falsely accused. (Among death row prisoners that ratio is about one in 11.)

Comments are closed.


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