COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKRC) - A newly introduced bill in Ohio would increase the penalties for anyone who attacks a referee or official during or after a game or match.
Ohio House Bill 139 would require a mandatory fine and community service for a misdemeanor, if the victim is a sports official and the assault is committed during or immediately before or after a sports event, or in retaliation for the official’s actions as a sports official.
The bill would also increase the penalty for an assault to a fifth-degree felony if the offender has previously been convicted of an assault against a sports official.
Bill sponsors, State Reps. Bill Roemer (R-Richland) and Joseph Miller, III (R-Amherst) said the measure is needed as a deterrent.
"What Representative Miller [and I] are hoping is that when you sit down with the parents, you have the ability to say, ‘If you physically assault an official. there will be enhanced consequences.’ Hopefully, that parent, or that uncle, or whoever, happens to be there, remembers that and says, ‘Oh, shoot, I'm going to leave it up to the coach. Maybe that guy was safe at second base.’ So, what we're hoping is that as a result of this, this is never used, but it allows the presidents, the commissioners, the coaches to say there are enhanced penalties as a result of this. Make sure you stay in line to follow,” Roemer said.
However, State Rep. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) wondered why the bill was needed, when penalties already exist for attacking a person.
“If I'm a parent and I'm angry, I'm mad, or if I'm a coach mad about a call, and I go up and punch the referee, that's a first-degree misdemeanor. I should be charged and then add to that the banning from being able to come to their son or daughter’s games for the rest of that year. You're out. If the assault is to the point where, maybe I punched him and break the referee's nose, that's a felonious assault and that person should be charged under a felony at that point. I'm not sure if creating an additional law to deter is going to be very effective, because oftentimes these are in the heat of passion when they do these things," Thomas said.
Other concerns were that the measure would disproportionately affect low-income people.
The sponsors said they would be open to amending the bill, but they felt the stiff penalties were needed to discourage anyone from attacking referees.