×
If you make a biased 911 call in New Jersey, you might have to spend time in jail

If you make a biased 911 call in New Jersey, you might have to spend time in jail

Legislation that has sarcastically been called "Karen's Law" will punish folks with three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both for placing a biased 911 call.

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation officially deeming it a crime to make a false 911 call based on someone's race. Any calls made to 911 with the goal of intimidating someone based on race or another protected class, such as religion or gender, has been made punishable by jail time. The measure creates a new category for false police reports and incrimination under the state's laws against bias intimidation. In the state, false police reports have been illegal for a long time. This legislation takes the protection against bias intimidation just a step further, CNN reports.

 



 

Governor Murphy affirmed in a statement, "Using the threat of a 911 call or police report as an intimidation tactic against people of color is an unacceptable, abhorrent form of discrimination. Individuals who choose to weaponize this form of intimidation should held be accountable to the fullest extent of the law." The legislation, which comes during a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, is a recognition of the growing number of calls made to 911 as a way to threaten or intimidate people of color, especially Black people. Amy Cooper, a White woman who was asked to put her dog on a leash by a Black man while walking the canine in New York City's Central Park, is only one recent example that made national headlines. She has since been charged with filing a false report.

 



 

Nationwide, such calls continue to be a common occurrence. Now that the new law has officially been passed in New Jersey, those who are found guilty of making a racist or otherwise biased call to 911 in order to intimidate someone from a marginalized community could face severe punishment. This includes being subject to three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. Earlier this year, the state of Washington also passed a similar law. Meanwhile, Oregon passed a law that would open an individual up to a civil suit for placing a biased 911 call. In other states, such as California, Michigan, and New York, such a law is being considered at various levels.

 



 

"With the ongoing protests further highlighting the turbulent relationship between police officers and the black community, the insidious threat of a false 911 call or police report has never been clearer," New Jersey Assemblymembers Benjie Wimberly, Yvonne Lopez, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Cleopatra Tucker affirmed in a joint statement. "We cannot allow anyone to call the police or file a report against someone simply because they do not like the victim’s race, gender, religion, or some other identifier. The police are not personal enforcers to be called whenever someone’s identity offends you – they are to be called in the event of a true emergency. Today, our state makes it clear that this intimidation will not be tolerated here."

 



 

Recommended for you