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Originally published Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:01 AM

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Stiffer penalties considered for court violence

It's already a felony to attack judges, court employees and county clerks doing their jobs in Washington state.

Associated Press

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SEATTLE —

It's already a felony to attack judges, court employees and county clerks doing their jobs in Washington state.

Now lawmakers want to make it a felony to assault anyone else at a courthouse, too.

Recognizing that many people who visit courthouses are stressed out or scared, Republicans and Democrats in Olympia have introduced bills in the House and Senate that would automatically elevate charges of fourth-degree assault to third-degree assault, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, when an attack happens at a courthouse.

The measures would also give judges the option of imposing extra time behind bars for more serious assaults.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says it's important to send a message that anyone using courthouses in the state should be protected from violence.

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