Rep. Bacon has introduced HB 1016 which increases the penalty for battery from a Class B misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony if it’s committed against a utility worker in the course of the worker’s duties.
I have nothing against utility workers and can see how they are at an increased risk — going onto strangers’ properties and so forth — but I am wondering how this sort of thing squares with the arguments we often see against hate crime legislation. Critics complain that hate crime legislation creates a hierarchy of victims — some victims are treated as being more important than others. In fact, the current law on battery already offers additional penalties to certain victims: law enforcement officers, firefighters, and the like. This isn’t uncommon and there are good policy justifications for the enhanced penalties.
While I’m at it, I’m also confused by hate crime detractor’s “thought crime” line of opposition to such legislation. They claim to object to the idea of courts or juries weighing the thought, belief, or emotional affect behind an act. But the fact of the matter is that courts and juries are asked to make a determination of the mental state of the accused in almost every crime. The mens rea of the accused is an element of most crimes. That’s what that whole business about “knowingly or intentionally” is about. (I think one of my favorites is the “malice aforethought” that used to describe an element of murder.)
But anyway, this was about battery against a utility worker.