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Approved by council, Grand Forks' hate-crime ordinances await publication to become official

Publication scheduled for Saturday, March 26. Ordinances will become official soon thereafter.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. Sam Easter / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Hate-crime ordinances approved two weeks ago by the City Council will be published in a public notice on March 26 and will go into effect thereafter, according to Assistant City Attorney Joseph Quinn.

The ordinances include simple assault-hate crime, criminal mischief, criminal mischief-hate crime and harassment, harassment-hate crime.

Under simple assault-hate crime, it is unlawful for a person to willfully cause bodily injury to someone in part, or in whole, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry of the victim.

For criminal mischief, a person is guilty of an offense if the person willfully tampers with tangible property of another or does so to endanger the person or property. Criminal mischief-hate crime would add in the fact that someone willfully tampered with tangible property of another because of bias.

A person can be found guilty of harassment if they make a phone call to frighten or harass anonymously or in offensively course language; if they make repeated phone calls or other electronic communication with no purpose of legitimate communication or communicate a falsehood in writing; of if they distribute electronic communication to cause mental anguish.

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Harassment-hate crime would add in the fact that someone committed the crime because of bias.

Violators of hate crimes would be punished with 30 days in jail and face a maximum fine up to $1,500. The publication of the notice will be in the Herald, the city's newspaper of record.

“Because they’re a criminal offense, before they can be enforced, in effect they have to be published so that it puts basically the citizens on notice that this is now a criminal offense in Grand Forks,” said Quinn, an attorney with Pearson Christensen, PLLP, of Grand Forks, who presented the ordinances during discussions at City Council meetings.

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The hate-crime ordinances went through two readings at City Council, including two public hearings, before being unanimously approved on March 8.

Quinn, who drafted the e-memorandum summarizing the ordinances presented to the council on Feb. 14, said the drafting of the hate crime ordinances was a collaborative effort between the Office of the City Attorney and City Prosecutor Kristi Pettit Venhuizen.

Some of the concerns voiced by City Council members were whether an offender could be found not guilty for a crime if prosecutors can’t prove it’s a hate crime. For a crime to be prosecuted as a hate crime, there needs to be proof that someone intentionally committed an act against someone in whole, or in part, because of the perceived race, color, religion, gender, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry of the victim.

“With the hate crime, it requires that additional element of bias,” Quinn said. “Again, it depends on the prosecutorial discretion when they look at the evidence whether or not they believe they can establish that bias.”

During the first council discussion regarding the hate-crime ordinances, Quinn told council members that they could pass non-hate-crime ordinances for criminal mischief and harassment, two ordinances the city didn’t previously have.

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By doing so, Quinn said prosecutors will have the choice between hate crime or non-hate-crime ordinances.

“If they don’t believe that they have the evidence to support that hate-crime element, then they’ll just be charged under the other general ordinance,” he said.

Fargo is the only other city in North Dakota to have hate-crime ordinances.

Related Topics: CITY OF GRAND FORKS
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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