As reported by the Army Times here, the Senate voted 92-0 last night to amend the DOD Authorization Act to create a new federal offense: “knowingly assault[ing] or batter[ing] a United States serviceman or an immediate family member of a United States serviceman, or . . . knowingly destroy[ing] or injur[ing] the property of such serviceman or immediate family member, on account of the military service of that serviceman or status of that individual as a United  States serviceman, or . . . attempt[ing] or conspir[ing] to do so.”  The text of the amendment as originally proposed is available here.  Sponsor Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) called the legislation “the soldiers’ amendment.”  Those who are subject to the UCMJ are ineligible to be charged under the new offense.

9 Responses to “Senate votes to create a new federal offense: assaulting servicemembers or their families or damaging their property due to their military status”

  1. Bridget says:

    Hmm, does the amendment make those subject to the UCMJ exempt from charges for assaulting another servicemember because they are servicemembers or does it completely remove the ability to prosecute servicemembers for any hate crimes?

  2. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Bridget, here’s the amendment’s exemption language: “This section shall not apply to conduct by a person who is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” “This section” would be the new § 1389 of Title 18, “Prohibition on attacks on United States servicemen on account of service.”

  3. Bridget says:

    Thanks Dwight, I went over to the Senate site and looked up the amendment.It appears the “section” that is inapplicable would be only that which addresses attacks on account of service and could apply to crimes motivated by other criteria in the act. However, I have no doubt there will be a challenge to that. New charge under cl. 3?

  4. Anonymous says:

    So this amendment would not allow prosecution of a contractor serving in the field during a contingency operation for this offense, assuming that Article 2(a)(10) is constitutional.

    There’s really no other way to prosecute assaults, batteries, and destruction of property, so this amendment is, in my view, an essential and long overdue addition to our federal criminal law.

  5. Anon says:

    Conceivably assaulting a gay servicemember or his family would fall both under this (because he’s in the military) and the new hate crimes law (because he is gay).

  6. John O'Connor says:

    Must get used to new website. I was Anonymous 2316.

  7. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    Thank goodness the poor defenseless members of the armed forces are finally recognized as a protected class by the Senate. We no longer need to cower in fear of some long-hair loser hurling insults in our general direction. The raging epidemic of hate crimes against military members I’ve been reading so much about will finally come to an end!

  8. Christopher Mathews says:

    I’m not particularly opposed to the concept of intent-based penalty enhancement, though I’m surprised to see Senator Sessions embrace it.

    As a technical (and purely personal) matter, I wonder whether retirees and reservists are meant to be covered by the amendment. The text linked to above says that

    the term ‘United States serviceman’—
    (A) means a member of the Armed Forces;
    and
    (B) includes a former member of the
    Armed Forces during the 5-year period beginning
    on the date of the discharge from the
    Armed Forces of that member of the Armed
    Forces.

    The exception under Section 1389(c) for persons subject to the Code suggests that the protections of the statute are intended to apply to all such persons, but it’s not clear that’s the case.

  9. Bridget says:

    My understanding is that Sen Sessions did not “embrace” S 1390, but proposed amendments he thought might stall it and then also make some political hay.

    Guess we would have to activate those retirees and try them at courts-martial the way this reads. Reserve and Guard, only on drill weekends, on AT or activated for Title 10 service, Guard members in Title 32 might not be included, because they generally would face a state court-martial, not subject to the Federal UCMJ. Oh, the devil and the fun – in the details.