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house Bill H.R. 99

Should Murdering or Trying to Kill First Responders be a Factor in Federal Death Penalty Decisions?

Argument in favor

Murdering or attempting to murder police officers and other first responders who go in harm’s way to protect the public should be an aggravating factor when the death penalty is considered as a sentence.

Argument opposed

The law shouldn’t make something that’s already a crime worse because of the status or occupation of the victim, especially when considering a sentence as controversial as the death penalty.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 3rd, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 99?

This bill would make the murder or attempted murder of a police officer, firefighter, or other first responder an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations. It would come into play in cases involving federal jurisdiction (an interstate homicide, or it occurred on federal land, etc.) if the first responder was carrying out their duties when the murder or attempted murder was carried out, because of the past performance of their work, or their status as public officials.


The first responders who are victims of murder or attempted murder and their families; those convicted of the murder or attempted murder of an on-duty first responder; and judges considering the death penalty for a relevant convict.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 99

The CBO estimates that this bill would have no significant effect on the federal budget.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) reintroduced this bill, along with six others, from the 115th Congress to "continue generating economic growth and opportunity for millions of Americans." Last Congress, Rep. Buchanan introduced this bill to toughen penalties against cop-killers in response to a wave of ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers in 2016:

“We owe a great debt to police officers and first responders across the country. Attacks against law enforcement officers must end. The strong committee vote today sends a clear message to those who target police — you will be held accountable.”

When this bill was originally introduced, the ACLU opposed it as "unnecessary and duplicative":

"The ACLU opposes this legislation because expanding the number of aggravating factors that would subject a person to the death penalty is unnecessary and duplicative; counterproductive to improving law enforcement and community relations; and unlikely to prevent future violence against police."

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Executive Director, Ted Cox, added in a The Hill op-ed:

"[B]ills like the Thin Blue Line Act and the Probation Officer Protection Act are little more than political posturing — posturing that we can ill afford as we build safer and more united communities."

There are currently no cosponsors of this bill in the 116th Congress. In the 115th Congress, this legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 19-12 vote with the support of 21 cosponsors, all of whom were Republicans.


Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Red Carlisle via Flickr / Creative Commons)


Thin Blue Line Act

Official Title

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide additional aggravating factors for the imposition of the death penalty based on the status of the victim.

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