Freedom to Report Act of 2017
'FREEDOM TO REPORT ACT':
SB 0816 by *Green , Bell, Hensley, Beavers, Bowling, Ketron, Kelsey, Stevens.
(HB 1366) by *Matheny,Holt, Rogers, Moody, Pody, VanHuss, Carter, Ragan, Faison, Reedy, Hill T, Hill M, Rudd, Butt, Weaver, Matlock, Gant, Sexton J, Sparks, Kumar, Terry, Byrd, Powers, Eldridge
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, gives immunity from civil or criminal liability to a person for making a report to law enforcement of suspicious activity or behavior if the report is based on articulable suspicion
The bill would provide (1) that individuals who report suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity in good faith cannot be sued as a consequence, and (2) the intentional making of a report known to be false, or a report made with reckless disregard for the truth of the report it not protected. When it comes to suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity, Americans are encouraged to, "report suspicious activity." But before they do so, they have a right to know that they won't be sued for their efforts. Similar legislation has passed in New York and Mississippi.
HB1366 Passed the House floor 73-21; then passed the Senate floor 31-0. It was signed by the Governor and became Public Chapter Number 208.
THE “Freedom to Report” ACT
• The federal government, and the US Department of Homeland Security in particular, urge citizens to report crimes to law enforcement authorities.
• Numerous crimes have been prevented and criminals have been apprehended as a result of such reports.
• There have even been instances when members of terrorist organizations in the United States have been apprehended due to such reports. (Charlotte, NC 1998 Hezbollah cell)
• However, there have been instances in which law abiding citizens, acting in good faith, have been subjected to lawsuits for reporting suspicious behavior.
• Lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits can be used to intimidate witnesses and prevent crimes from being reported.
• This form of “lawfare” can prevent citizens from “saying something” when they “see something.”
• The "Freedom to Report Act" would protect people who report something by preventing them from being sued when they, in good faith, based on articulable suspicion, report behavior that they believe constitutes, is indicative of, or is in furtherance of a crime or an act of terrorism.
• Such a statute already exists in the state of New York and Mississippi.
• The act does not offer protection if the report is deemed to have not been made in good faith or with a reasonable belief that suspicious behavior constitutes, is indicative of, or is in furtherance of a crime or an act of terrorism.
• The San Bernardino shooters had been observed displaying suspicious activity but a neighbor did not want to report that suspicious activity out of fear of being labeled a “bigot.” We need those who witness suspicious activity to feel safe to report that activity in an appropriate manner to appropriate authorities.