A federal law providing immunity for federal agents from local prosecution was signed into law by President Obama with the "fiscal cliff" deal on Wednesday.
The Officer Safety Act, which was strongly supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), provides a legal process to federal officers who intervene to prevent the loss of life or serious bodily injury to a third party.
Prior to the act's passage, federal officers could be exposed to local criminal prosecution if they could not substantiate that they acted within the scope of their employment. Now, federal officers will be able to petition the court for a removal hearing in order to have their case heard in a federal venue.
The act was sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). It was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
The legislation stemmed from the injustice faced by Will Clark, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In 2008, while serving in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Special Agent Clark intervened to save the life of a battered neighbor. Clark was subsequently charged with murder.
"It's important for our legal system to support the heroic acts of federal officers when they risk their lives in their personal capacity to prevent the loss of life," said Jon Adler, FLEOA's national president.