House passes bill that would criminalize 'false and frivolous' accusations against public employees

Bill amended to reduce penalty from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor

Eric Murphy
Eric Murphy (Submitted photo)

BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill that would criminalize the filing of "false and frivolous" accusations of discrimination or harassment against public employees during its Monday floor session.

House Bill 1256 — which passed 53-41 — was introduced by Rep. Eric Murphy, R-Grand Forks. It was amended to reduce the penalty for filing a false and frivolous accusation from a class C felony, which can entail up to five years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine, to a class A misdemeanor, with a maximum of 360 days imprisonment and/or a $3,000 fine.

On the House floor, Rep. Landon Bahl, R-Grand Forks, said the bill is an important step to combat the "weaponization of false allegations for personal gain."

"We live in unique times, times in which an individuals reputation and character can be tarnished overnight," said Bahl. "This bill seeks consequences for false allegations, and serves as a warning and deterrent."

Also on the floor Monday, Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, said avenues already exist within the criminal justice system to penalize false and frivolous accusations.


"I understand that being falsely accused of discrimination or sexual harassment is a crime that should be punished severely," said Vetter. "That is exactly why I believe in due process for the accused. Title IX is a federal sanction for universities — it is not a criminal statute. In a Title IX claim, the victim's name is always anonymous, as opposed to criminal proceedings where the accused has the right to face their accuser. Adding a state criminal charge to our century code based on a false federal sanction is just not right. Providing a false statement to law enforcement is already a crime, so this bill is not needed."

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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