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Pennsylvania Senate OKs bill to criminalize fleeing arrest on foot

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania's state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would make it a crime to flee a police officer who is trying to arrest them, and an additional crime if a police dog is hurt in the pursuit.

The bill passed, 36-14, and goes to the House for consideration.

The bill was introduced by northeastern Pennsylvania senators to commemorate a Scranton police officer, John Wilding, who died of a head injury in 2015 after jumping a fence and falling in pursuit of three 17-year-olds suspected of stealing a sport utility vehicle.

The severity of the penalty for knowingly fleeing arrest rises based on the seriousness of the underlying crime. It also rises if someone — including a police officer — is hurt or killed in the pursuit. If someone dies, the penalty is a second-degree felony.

Police groups support the legislation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said the bill creates duplicative and unnecessary crimes and criminalizes the “legal and constitutional right to run from law enforcement.”

The sponsor, Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, called that a radical position.

On the police dog provision, Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said the bill would unjustly force someone to allow themselves to be attacked by the dog — and possibly suffer serious injuries — or face jail.

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