MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson said today that any individual who spits or coughs on a member of law enforcement will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The announcement follows incidents reported by police agencies in Chautauqua County in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We find ourselves in unprecedented times. Our Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies and State Troopers are putting their lives, and potentially the lives of those close to them, at-risk to protect our communities every single day,” Swanson said. “These officers risk exposure to this virus simply by going to work. It angers me that anyone would spit or cough at an officer – especially during this health crisis – in an effort to intimidate or threaten them when they are performing their job related responsibilities. The people of Chautauqua County should know that this behavior will not be tolerated, and my office will pursue the highest possible charge against any individual who threatens the health and livelihood of our law enforcement officers.”
The range of potential charges may include Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony, Menacing in the Third Degree, a Class “B” misdemeanor, and violation of Harassment in the Second Degree.
The Chautauqua County DA’s Office will also consider bringing a motion to the court to compel a defendant to be tested for COVID-19. If the alleged incident occurs within a correctional facility, an individual could be charged with Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony. If convicted on the felony charge, a person could face a maximum of 4 years in prison.
This is a time for coming together as a whole community to get through an unthinkable crisis. My hope is that we do not have any more of these types of incidents.