Can Calling the Cops Be a Hate Crime?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 21, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Even if you see what you think is a crime being committed, you don't always have to dial 911. In fact, there have been some infamous incidents lately of people dialing 911 for some bad reasons or for no reason at all.

And while calling the cops can get you in trouble in certain instances, one New York congressperson wants to make calling the police on innocent black people a hate crime. A week after a Trump supporter called the police on State Senator Jesse Hamilton while he was campaigning on the street, the lawmaker has proposed a bill that would strengthen laws that prohibit people from making false reports and criminalize 911 calls against people of color without evidence of wrongdoing.

Calls for No Crime = Hate Crimes

Hamilton was speaking with voters in Brooklyn earlier this month when an unidentified woman called the cops. "I support Trump," the woman told him, "and I see the difference between Democrat and Republican -- and I see the difference between you and Trump." In an exchange caught on video, the woman shouted at Hamilton for giving out pamphlets about "fighting back" against Trump. When officers arrived they "patiently explained to the woman that Hamilton had done nothing illegal."

"That's gonna be a hate crime," Hamilton told The Prospect Heights Patch last week. "This pattern of calling the police on black people going about their business and participating in the life of our country has to stop." His proposed legislation would designate racially-motivated 911 calls as hate crimes, especially in instances where the call results in police responding with the preconception that the person might cause a threat. Hamilton did say that calls on anyone who legitimately appeared to be a threat would not be prosecuted.

Criminal Cop Calls

As we noted, calling the police for no good reason can already be a crime. Making too many 911 calls can get you arrested, and making false accusations of a crime can be a crime in and of itself. Filing false police reports is generally a misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in jail, although what constitutes a false report can vary depending on jurisdiction. And the crime can be bumped up to a felony in certain situations.

As a general rule, you want to avoid calling 911 unless someone's personal safety is in legitimate and immediate danger. For more information on 911 call and false police report statutes where you live, contact a local criminal attorney.

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