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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Nick Zerwas (R)

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Rep. Nick Zerwas to Introduce Legislation Increasing Criminal Penalties for Falsely Reporting a Hate Crime

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ST. PAUL, MN—State Representative Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, announced today that he is planning to introduce legislation this session that would increase the criminal penalty for falsely reporting a hate crime.

“Hate crimes are among society’s most heinous and despicable acts. Those that commit bias-motivated crimes deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Rep. Zerwas. “Unfortunately, false claims of victimization distract from genuine episodes of violent bigotry and discrimination. My bill is a reasonable step to help deter individuals from filing false police reports and to make sure that we devote law enforcement’s limited resources to investigating and prosecuting legitimate bias-motivated crimes.”

Under current law, it is a misdemeanor to inform a law enforcement officer that a crime has been committed or otherwise provide false information to an on-duty peace officer knowing that it is false and intending that the officer act upon it. The criminal penalty for reporting false information can be escalated to a gross misdemeanor if an individual falsely reports criminal police misconduct.

Rep. Zerwas said that he was motivated to introduce the legislation after recent news reports out of Chicago revealed that a highly publicized hate crime was likely a hoax perpetrated by the individual claiming to have been attacked.

“As news reports continue to emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that the highly publicized alleged hate crime in Chicago last month was a hoax,” said Rep. Zerwas. “We need to send a message that similar hoaxes are not welcome in Minnesota as they only seek to divide us and distract from legitimate acts of bias-motivated violence.”

Zerwas’ bill would add additional language in statute to allow for a gross misdemeanor escalator if someone were to falsely report a hate crime. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine up to $3,000, or both