Bill introduced to Strengthen Penalties for Creating False Public Alarms, Places Crime under Bias Intimidation Law

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) announced plans on Monday to introduce legislation that would strengthen the law against a person who initiated a false public alarm, such as bomb threats, by adding the crime to the list of crimes under the state’s bias intimidation law.

“The recent incidents occurring in this state and across the country have raised numerous concerns for the safety of our Jewish community centers and synagogues,” said Johnson. “Calling in bomb threats is a crime that uses up valuable resources in our communities. These acts of hate and anti-Semitism must not go overlooked.”

The bias intimidation law would apply if the crime is committed purposely to victimize a specific class of people. The bias crime law would add an additional charge that would be one degree higher than the perpetrated crime of creating a false public alarm.

Under the bill, if an individual is charged with committing a fourth degree false public alarm and its intended victim was of a protected class, the individual can also be charged with bias intimidation in the third degree. Similarly, if a person commits a third degree public alarm, they can also be charged with second degree bias intimidation.

“By strengthening the statute, we ensure the court’s ability to use the fullest extent of the law to punish perpetrators who threaten the safety of residents and burden law enforcement by creating false alarms,” Johnson continued.

A person is guilty of the crime bias intimidation if he commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate commission of an offense with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals and knowing that the conduct constituting the offense would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ethnicity.

Also, a person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation under circumstances that caused any victim of the underlying offense to be intimidated and the victim, considering the manner in which the offense is committed, reasonably believed either that (a) the offense was committed with the purpose to intimidate or the victim or any person or entity in whose welfare the victim is interested or (b) the victim or the victim’s property was selected to be the target of the offense because of the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ethnicity.

Johnson’s bill is scheduled to be introduced on March 16 during the next Assembly session.

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