In 1999, a misguided Legislature passed a bill that made it a crime to make a false allegation of misconduct against a police officer.
It didn't take long for the law to claim its first victim. In 2000, Washoe County resident Robert Eakins griped about Reno police in a letter to the city's mayor. The mayor forwarded the letter to police, who used the law's vague language to label the correspondence a formal complaint. Mr. Eakins was jailed for 14 hours.
In 2002, a federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional for many reasons, among them its exclusive application to law enforcement officers and not other public officials.
Last week, Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 150. To revive the unconstitutional law, this bill would make it a crime -- you guessed it -- to lodge a false allegation against any public official. If this bill is passed, most every taxpayer who has put into writing his frustration with the Legislature's inaction on property tax increases could end up incarcerated.
The public has a guaranteed right to criticize government and public officials. The 1999 law belongs in a distant, unmarked grave where it can never be unearthed for reconsideration.
Posted by: Greg at
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