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California Proposal Would Make Racially-Motivated 911 Calls a Hate Crime

July 1, 2020

Making a false emergency report would be added to the state’s hate crime law

California Proposal Would Make Racially-Motivated 911 Calls a Hate Crime

Over the past month, protests have swept the country as hundreds of thousands of Americans join together to speak out about police brutality, systemic racism, and injustice. Motivated by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the protests came shortly after an incident where a white woman called 911 on a Black man in New York City after he asked her to put her dog on a leash. In the call, the woman repeatedly stated that she was being threatened by an African American man.

This situation was just one of many documented instances of white people calling 911 on Black people for simply going about their daily lives. As a criminal defense attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, CA can explain, doing so may put the lives of Black people in danger or expose them to criminal charges for what is often completely innocent conduct, like having a barbecue in a public park or taking a nap in the common area of your university dorm.

A new bill introduced by Assemblymember Rob Bonta would make these types of racially-motivated 911 calls a hate crime. Under Assembly Bill 1550 (AB 1550), making a false emergency report that is motivated by a person’s race, religion, gender or another protected class would qualify as a hate crime. The maximum sentence for this charge would be up to 3 years in prison. In addition, victims of discriminatory 911 calls could file a lawsuit against the person who made the call.

Making a false emergency report is already a criminal offense in California. It is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to 1 year in county jail. However, there are no protections for the victims of these types of false calls. Under this bill, if the 911 call was made based on a person’s race (or other protected status), the charge could be elevated to a hate crime — and the victim would be able to sue for damages.

Of course, it may be difficult to prove that a 911 call was motivated by racial animus rather than by a concern about a crime being committed. In most cases that have received public attention, the person making the 911 call does not mention race, but focuses on the allegedly wrongful behavior. While this bill may discourage people from making 911 calls based on race, it may be difficult for prosecutors to even bring this type of charge — or for victims to recover damages in a lawsuit.

If AB 1550 becomes law, it will create a new way for prosecutors to charge individuals with a hate crime. If you have been charged with any type of crime, including one related to making a false emergency report, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Reach out to us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

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