Tennessee lawmaker proposes stiffer penalties for assaulting sports officials

Tennessee

Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Tennessee state lawmaker has filed a bill that would create stiffer penalties for assaulting sports officials.

Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) filed House Bill 1761 on Friday.

Under Ogle’s bill, it would be a Class E felony, the least serious felony classification in Tennessee, if someone:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event;
  • Intentionally or knowingly causes a sports official, while the official is officiating a sporting event, to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury;

It would be a Class A misdemeanor if someone:

  • Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.

A Class E felony is punishable by up to six years in prison while a Class A misdemeanor could result in up to a year in jail.

Even though the bill’s definition of “assault against a sports official” nearly mirrors the current definition of “assault” under state law, the two charges could result in very different penalties because “assault” is classified as either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, not a felony.

“Assault” under current state law:

—Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another (Class A misdemeanor)

—Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury (Class A misdemeanor)

—Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative. (Class B misdemeanor)

“Assault against a sports official” under HB1761:

—Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event (Class E felony)

—Intentionally or knowingly causes a sports official, while the official is officiating a sporting event, to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury (Class E felony)

—Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative (Class A misdemeanor)

Ogle’s bill comes after an incident involving Rep. Jeremy Faison, who was captured on video trying to “pants” a referee at a basketball game in Johnson City earlier this month. After the incident, Faison issued an apology on social media.

A companion bill has not been filed in the Senate yet.

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