What Are Your Rights? Water Bucket Attacks and Potential New Legislation

Narrator: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Woman: In the wake of what is being called “water bucket attacks,” we have seen videos of police officers being filmed, yelled at, and doused with water while on the job. One county in Western New York has decided to address the issue and is now considering putting a law on the books that might give police officers more discretion in charging offenders criminally for such acts. Here to help explain this proposed law is managing partner, Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you.

Woman: Thanks for being here.

Paul: Sure.

Woman: So, what exactly is this new law proposing?

Paul: The new law is proposing that if you annoy, alarm, or threaten a police officer, that you could be in jail for a year or face a $5,000 fine.

Woman: So, we’re talking about this county in Upstate New York, in Monroe County specifically. So, isn’t it already illegal to attack a police officer? How is this law really going to be different?

Paul: Yeah. So, it’s different in the regard of annoy or alarm a police officer. Yeah, you throw a bucket of water on a police officer, that is assault, that is disorderly conduct, but here’s the situation. It’s like, when a police officer’s in a situation and he’s maybe trying to get witnesses, trying to figure out what’s happening, and someone is putting a phone three inches from their face, filming it, or maybe they’re standing too close and, “I’m not doing anything wrong; I’m just right next to you,” that could annoy or alarm a police officer, and that would be in violation of that statute.

Woman: It’s important to note that this also applies to first responders.

Paul: It does, yeah.

Woman: Not just police officers.

Paul: Right.

Woman: So, let’s talk a little bit about the downside or the argument against this proposal.

Paul: You know, that one says, “Hey, police, I’m going to have a little too much latitude. I’m annoyed. You’re going to jail.” You know, so that is a strong argument against this, that it might be unfairly used.

Woman: Yeah. Some people might argue that this is unconstitutional.

Paul: You know, so the Constitution’s pretty good in a lot of ways, and one of the things it says, you have to understand what the law is to know if you’re in violation of it, right? So, how do I know if I’m annoying a police officer? Well, you know, maybe it’s a judgment call, but they’re probably going to find this statute, the way it’s written, unconstitutional. And what I see happening is that being the way that goes, them rewriting it, something that will solve the problem, which is a good one. You know, we need first responders and police to be able to do their job and have some authority behind that, but probably, the language is just a little too broad.

Woman: All right, well, and it will definitely be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Of course, we’ll be staying on top of it, especially with it being a law right here in Upstate New York.

Paul: Absolutely.

Woman: Paul, thank you.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Woman: Of course, for more stories about your rights, be sure to visit our website, cbs6albany.com.