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H.F. No. 4137 - Harassment-Related Changes (First Engrossment)
Author: Senator Jerry Relph
Prepared By: Kenneth P. Backhus, Senate Counsel (651/296-4396)
Date: May 13, 2020



H.F. No. 4137 amends the harassment, harassing telephone calls, and harassing letters crimes in reaction to a 2019 Minnesota Supreme Court decision. In Matter of Welfare of A.J.B., the court struck down portions of the harassment and harassing letters crimes as being facially overbroad by prohibiting a substantial amount of speech protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The changes made in the bill are designed to address this constitutional infirmity (in both the crimes that were the subject of the decision, as well as the harassing telephone calls crime) by adding a mental state and other related limiting language based on the federal harassment crime, which was discussed approvingly in the court decision.

Section 1 makes a conforming change.

Section 2 amends the gross misdemeanor harassment crime to require that a violation (maintains the current harassment-type conduct-see lines 3.6 to 3.23) be committed with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person and that the violation places that person in reasonable fear of substantial bodily harm or reasonable fear that a family or household member will be subject to substantial bodily harm, or causes or would reasonably be expected to cause the person severe emotional distress. 

Section 3 amends the felony harassment crime to provide that the felony penalty applies when the underlying crime is committed by an offender who uses a dangerous weapon in any way. Under current law, the felony applies if the offender simply possessed the weapon. (This change is unrelated to the court case.) Also makes a conforming change.

Sections 4 and 5 make changes to the harassing telephone calls crime and the harassing letters crime similar to those made in section 2.

Section 6 repeals two subdivisions of the harassment crime superseded by the bill.


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