Bills Seek Harsher Penalties For Attacking Referees, Coaches

Feb 10, 2020

HILO — Two bills introduced to the Hawaii state Senate seek harsher penalties for parents, spectators and athletes who assault or terrorize sports officials such as referees, umpires and coaches.

The would expand the state's second-degree assault law to include causing injury because of a sports officials' performance at events, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

Second-degree assault is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

The bill would establish the offenses of first-, second- and third-degree assault of a sports official, as well as terroristic threatening against a sports official.

First-degree assault against a sports official would be punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

Second-degree assault against a sports official and the terroristic threatening charge would carry potential five-year prison terms.

Third-degree assault against a sports official would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Both bills were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not scheduled a hearing on either measure.

Democratic Sen. Glenn Wakai introduced the bill to expand the definition of second-degree assault to include sports officials after talking with the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, he said.

The association told Wakai it now holds high school football games on Fridays and Saturdays because there are not enough officials to hold them all on Friday nights.

“They said they were losing officials due to (officials) just being tired of being assaulted verbally and physically by fans. And that is just so unacceptable,” Wakai said.

Lyle Crozier, executive director of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, the sanctioning body for high school sports in Hawaii County, said the legislation is needed due to the escalation of bad and potentially dangerous behavior by parents and fans.

“It seems like it’s getting worse every year,” Crozier said.