Hennepin County, MN – Suspects who spit on police in Minnesota’s most populated county no longer need to worry about being charged with a felony, as long as they avoid spitting on officers’ hands or faces.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has announced his office will is too busy to prosecute felony cases against people who spit on any part of a law enforcement officer’s body or uniform, with the exception of their faces or hands, WCCO reported.
“We think the harm caused by spitting on the boot or uniform does not rise to the level of spitting on the face or hands,” Freeman reasoned.
Although Minnesota law dictates anyone who “intentionally throws or otherwise transfers bodily fluids or feces at an officer” is guilty of a felony offense, Freeman said his office is simply too busy to worry about enforcing the law.
“We have a full deck,” he told WCCO.
Cases rejected under the new policy will not automatically be transferred to the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution because the city prosecutor does not handle felony offenses.
Since spitting on a law enforcement officer is a felony, the buck stops with Freeman’s office, WCCO reported.
Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) Executive Director Brian Petters denounced Freeman’s policy change, especially in the midst of increasing violence against law enforcement officers.
“It’s ridiculous the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will not uphold state law and not prosecute felony-level assault,” Petters told WCCO. “Just as violent crimes in our communities are increasing, physical assaults of law enforcement officers are also increasing.”
Hamline University Law Professor David Schultz said it is completely within Freeman’s power to ignore Minnesota law.
“Prosecutors have incredibly broad discretion to not only prosecute or not prosecute, but based upon how they view the evidence, perhaps what type of charges to bring,” Schultz told WCCO.