Bill o' the Day: Fall of the Noose
The current statute on racial intimidation/hate crime in NC is this, as far as I can tell:
GENERAL STATUTES Chapter 14
§ 14‑3. Punishment of misdemeanors, infamous offenses, offenses committed in secrecy and malice, or with deceit and intent to defraud, or with ethnic animosity....
(c) If any Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanor is committed because of the victim's race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, the offender shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If any Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor offense is committed because of the victim's race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, the offender shall be guilty of a Class I felony.
§ 14‑401.14. Ethnic intimidation; teaching any technique to be used for ethnic intimidation.
(a) If a person shall, because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, assault another person, or damage or deface the property of another person, or threaten to do any such act, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(b) A person who assembles with one or more persons to teach any technique or means to be used to commit any act in violation of subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
New Legislation, introduced yesterday by Senator Berger of Franklin County:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT to make it unlawful to burn a cross or hang a noose for the intent of intimidating another person because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin and to study the impact of recent cross burnings and noose hangings across the state to make recommendations for modification to the criminal laws of the state.
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Chapter 14 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:
"§ 14‑401.14A. Unlawful to burn a cross or hang a noose with the intent to intimidate.
If a person shall burn a cross or hang a noose with the intent to intimidate another because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, he shall be guilty of a Class H felony."
SECTION 2. The Legislative Research Commission shall study the impact of recent cross burnings and noose hangings within the State and determine if any modifications should be made to existing statutes to lawfully deter this type of conduct. Of funds appropriated to the General Assembly for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, there shall be allocated the sum of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) to fund this study. The Legislative Research Commission shall report its findings and make recommendations for legislation to the 2009 Session of the General Assembly.
SECTION 3. This act becomes effective December 1, 2008, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.
1. A study? Really?
2. The new legislation is not as bad as the existing law, and I had not seen the existing law. Punishing someone for "ethnic animosity" is pretty vague. Punishing someone for burning a cross is at least specific. And, "intent" is always hard to guess. But if somebody burns a cross in your yard, it is likely intended to intimidate and terrorize.
The law makes a distinction between me putting a pile of garbage in your lawn, and setting it afire, and putting a cross in your yard and setting it afire. That distinction, at least, seems right: burning a cross really is an assault. But a "class H felony" has a presumptive punishment of three years imprisonment, even if no other action or assault takes place.