Summary: The Stop Intimidation of Public Officials Act makes it a felony to threaten any public official in an attempt to influence that official’s vote, decision or other official action.
Based on: Washington RCW 9A.76.180 (1975, 2011)
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Stop Intimidation of Public Officials Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
1) Since approximately 2016, there has been a steep increase in the number and severity of threats against public officials, from state elected officials to local government workers and official volunteers.
2) Many of these threats are designed to intimidate officials in order to influence government decisions, such as the counting of votes and the implementation of measures to combat COVID-19.
3) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s warnings about domestic violent extremists make it reasonable for public officials to fear that threats against them may be carried out.
4) It is usually a federal crime to threaten to injure or kidnap any person, including state and local officials, but the U.S. Department of Justice is overwhelmed with such complaints and cannot begin to address them all.
5) Such efforts at intimidation are destructive to our system of democracy and the rule of law. There can be no government “of, by and for the people” if official actions are in the slightest bit influenced by threats.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect our democratic system and the rule of law.
SECTION 3. INTIMIDATION OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS PROHIBITED
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:
(1) “Public official” means a person legally authorized or permitted to execute laws or make decisions on behalf of any government, including any branch, subdivision, or agency of the state or any county, city, district, or other local government. “Public official” includes but is not limited to: elected and appointed officials, government employees, and people who are officially selected or acknowledged as acting on behalf of the government, such as jurors, health board members and election workers.
(2) “Threat” means to communicate, directly or indirectly, the intent to do any of the following:
(a) Cause bodily injury to the public official threatened or to any other person;
(b) Cause physical damage to the property of the public officials or to any other person;
(c) Subject the public official or any other person to physical confinement or restraint;
(d) Accuse the public official of a crime;
(e) Publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, with the intention of subjecting the public official to hatred, contempt, or ridicule; or
(f) Do any other act with the intention of substantially harming the public official’s health, safety, business, financial condition, or personal relationships.
(B) PROHIBITION AGAINST THREATS
(1) A person is guilty of intimidating a public official if, by use of a threat, that person attempts to influence a public official’s vote, decision, or other action as an agent of the government.
(2) In determining what constitutes a threat, the police, prosecutors and courts shall consider whether, under the circumstances, a reasonable person who received the communication would consider it a threat.
(1) It shall be a [Class 3] felony to intimidate a public official in violation of this section.
(2) In addition to existing enforcement procedures for felonies, the [Attorney General] shall be empowered to prosecute cases under this section and the [Attorney General] shall promulgate regulations to aid enforcement, including a process for accepting complaints and for working with the State Police to investigate.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on July 1, 20XX.