Harrisburg, October 26, 2021 − The Pennsylvania Senate passed Officer John Wilding’s Law (Senate Bill 814) today, which creates a new offense of “evading arrest or detention on foot.”
Introduced by Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe), the bill was drafted in response to the tragic death of Officer John Wilding of the Scranton Police Department. In 2015, Officer Wilding lost his life from injuries sustained while chasing three armed robbery suspects in a West Scranton neighborhood.
“Every day, our police officers put their lives on the line for us. What’s at stake for them every time they go to work – we can’t imagine,” Senator Flynn said. “So it’s our job as lawmakers to look out for those who serve and uphold the law. We have to protect those who protect us.”
In a bipartisan vote of 36-14, the Senate voted affirmatively on the bill which makes evading arrest or detention on foot an offense if a person knowingly and intentionally flees on foot from a public servant attempting to lawfully arrest or detain that person.
“Officer Wilding gave his life in service to the citizens of Scranton and our great Commonwealth,” said Senator Yudichak. “Senate Bill 814 ensures that his life will forever be honored by protecting the men and women of law enforcement with the addition of a new offense, evading arrest on foot, as a felony offense in the crimes code.”
Existing statute currently prohibits fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and struggling with an officer attempting to place an individual under lawful arrest, however the statute is silent with respect to fleeing from an officer on foot and placing the officers or innocent bystanders at risk of injury.
In addition to establishing the offense, the bill sets the new offense grades as follows:
- A third-degree felony if a person flees or attempts to evade arrest or detention for an underlying offense that constitutes a felony or misdemeanor and another person suffers serious bodily injury as a result
- A second-degree felony if a person flees or attempts to evade arrest or detention for an underlying offense that constitutes a felony or misdemeanor and another person dies as a result
- A second-degree misdemeanor if a person flees or attempts to evade arrest or detention for an underlying offense that constitutes a felony or misdemeanor
The bill also creates a new offense of “harming a police animal while evading arrest or detention.”
“Unfortunately, we cannot change what happened to Officer Wilding,” said Senator Flynn. “But hopefully this law will provide a bit of peace for the Wilding family and will prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”
Senate Bill 814 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its concurrence.