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ALBANY - Those arrested for assault of utility workers, public transit station cleaners and servers of civil suits and other legal documents will now automatically face a felony under a measure signed into law Friday.

Sen. William Larkin (R-C-New Windsor) said the law is prompted by a utility worker in his Hudson Valley district who was violently assaulted while on the job.

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The measure was strongly supported by labor unions influential in Albany, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The law is intended to be a deterrent. Currently, the severity of the attack and other circumstances could result in only a misdemeanor charge.

“These workers perform tasks that are vital to the operation of New York institutions and have increasingly become the targets of aggression and assaults,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The new law raises the level of the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, with penalties that include state prison sentences. Current laws already provides the stiffer penalty for those who assault employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and emergency medical providers.

Cuomo also signed a measure that will make it easier for funeral homes to tap a state fund to help pay for the funeral expenses of homicide victims.

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The change will allow more funeral service companies to tap into the fund directly to avoid requiring the family of the deceased to pay for the services or to seek reimbursement from the state fund on their own.

The state Office of Victim Services provides up to $6,000 for burial expenses for homicide victims after a family’s insurance and funeral protection funds are exhausted. The state funding can be used to help pay for funeral services, burial plots, the deceased’s clothing, clergy, a hearse, obituaries, grave stone, flowers, death certificates and church fees.