Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Incidents of Spitting, Coughing at Law Enforcement During Pandemic

Modified: July 8, 2020 2:20pm

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Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that any individual who intentionally spits or coughs on a member of law enforcement will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The announcement follows multiple incidents reported by police agencies in Erie County in light of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Every day, police officers put their lives at-risk to protect our communities. Now, these officers risk exposure to this virus by performing their duties that require them to come into contact with individuals despite social distancing recommendations. It infuriates me that any person would spit or cough at an officer - especially during this health crisis. I want the people of Erie County to know that this behavior will not be tolerated, and I will pursue the highest possible charge against any individual who threatens the health and livelihood of our police officers,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.  

Potential charges may include Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony, Menacing in the Third Degree, a Class “B” misdemeanor, and Harassment in the Second Degree, a violation. If the alleged incident occurs within a correctional facility, an individual could be charged with Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony. If convicted on one of the felony charges, a person could face a maximum of 4 years in prison. 

The Erie County DA’s Office will also consider bringing a motion to the court to compel a defendant to be tested for COVID-19.

COVID-19 can be spread between people who are in close contact with one another through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes as well as through saliva. It may also be possible that a person contracts the virus by touching an infected surface or object or by touching their face. 

Reported incidents will be investigated and prosecuted by Chief Danielle D’Abate of the DA’s Community Prosecution Unit. 

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Erie County Health Department website: