Spitting, cyber bullying share Legislature agenda
Published: August 19, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - If a bill before a V.I. Legislature committee becomes law, inmates will need to think twice before spitting on someone, or spend an additional five years in jail.
The V.I. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety is reviewing three proposed bills this week, all of which are designed to make the territory safer.
The first bill on the agenda addresses computer crimes, including bullying via social media and trespassing upon computer space.
"The bill addresses several areas," said Richard Nicks, researcher for the office of Sen. Diane Capehart, who is sponsoring the bill.
Capehart could not be reached for comment on the bill.
"We have to hold people accountable for the crimes they are committing, including online," Nicks said.
The bill defines what kinds of devices - primarily computers and cell phones - and programs would be off limits to others, unless the device's owner gave someone permission.
It addresses a variety of crimes that in recent years have become increasingly common, such as fraud, theft and trespassing via computer and cell phone technology.
"People are losing money because of this," Nicks said, recalling someone who hacked into government accounts several years ago and stole $300,000.
"It was like, 'Oh my God. What happened?' "
The other two bills that will be addressed are coming out of Sen. Sammuel Sanes's office, one of them is being driven by events at corrections facilities.
"It was an issue that was brought to us by the Corrections officers. They were having issues with the inmates," said Melissa Hall, a researcher with Sanes's office.
Officers have been complaining that inmates are spitting on them and flinging other bodily fluids and waste at them.
The bill, as a result, would make it illegal for people to "propel" bodily fluids or waste at others, and also for them to put it in others' food or drink.
For people facing charges, or serving a sentence in a correctional facility, they would receive stiffer penalties if they did so toward an employee of a correctional facility or of a court. Spitting at a Corrections, or court official would be considered a felony, and the person who committed the crime would be subject to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Others would have committed a misdemeanor crime and be subject to up to six months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.
The second bill coming out of Sanes's office would prohibit felons from possessing body armor, defined as any type of bullet-resistant material intended to protect a person. The bill would also prohibit felons from buying, using or selling body armor.
Similar bills have been adopted in many states as a measure to protect police from violent felons who may try to resist arrest or pursuit by law enforcement officers.
Sanes could not be reached for comment this week.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.