Burns wants to stiffen penalties for fleeing from police

Bill would create first-degree felony offense if doing so injures or kills an officer

EBENSBURG, Oct. 16 – Moved by the case of a 29-year-old patrolman who jumped a fence while chasing three armed robbery suspects, then fell 15 feet and died of a head injury, state Rep. Frank Burns wants to stiffen the penalties for those whose fleeing or attempt to elude law enforcement injures or kills an officer.

Burns, D-Cambria, has introduced H.B. 1857, which would raise the penalty for fleeing a police officer by motor vehicle from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, while creating a new first-degree felony offense for seriously injuring or killing an officer while fleeing. 

Additionally, because not all suspects flee by vehicle, Burns’ bill would expand the offense of resisting arrest to include fleeing or eluding an officer no matter the mode of transportation – and make it a first-degree felony if doing so causes serious injury or death to the officer.

“As a member of the Blue Lives Matter Caucus, I believe we need to do all we can to protect those who serve and protect us,” Burns said. “By increasing the penalties for resisting arrest, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, it is my hope that suspects will think twice before endangering these public servants.”

Burns said he took up this cause after being contacted by the mother of John Wilding, the aforementioned patrolman for the Scranton Police Department who fell to his death in 2015 while pursuing suspects on foot after they crashed and fled a stolen vehicle. Wilding left behind a wife and two children, Burns said.

The stiffer penalties proposed by Burns would also apply if a member of the public is seriously injured or killed during a suspect’s fleeing or eluding of law enforcement.

House Bill 1857 is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.