One day before the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a new law went into effect in New York which makes reporting suspected terrorists attacks less risky. Yesterday Governor Spitzer signed the “Freedom to Report Terrorism Act.” The new law will provide protections against litigation for individuals who report potential terrorist activities. The new law shields persons from civil and criminal liability in New York courts if they act in good faith and with the reasonable belief that an individual is acting in furtherance of a crime or an act of terrorism. Malicious reports of suspicious behavior to law enforcement will not be protected by this new law.
In his Press Release, the Governor stated:
The threat of a lawsuit can have a chilling effect on the willingness of the average person to report suspicious behavior. People acting in good faith to assist law enforcement officials in preventing terrorism should not have to worry about the threat of legal action. In the fight against terrorism, we need to encourage, not discourage, New Yorkers to do their part.
The Act amends the Penal Law by adding a new section 490.01, which provides as follows:
490.01 Liability Protection
1. Any person who makes a qualified disclosure of suspicious behavior shall be immune from civil and criminal liability for reporting such behavior.
2. For purposes of this article, “qualified disclosure of suspicious behavior” means any disclosure of allegedly suspicious behavior of another individual or individuals to any person that is made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that such suspicious behavior constitutes, is indicative of, or is in furtherance of a crime or an act of terrorism.
3. An action alleging that a statement or disclosure by a person of any suspicious transaction, activity or occurrence indicating that an individual may be engaging in or preparing to engage in suspicious behavior which constitutes, is indicative of, or is in furtherance of, a crime or an act of terrorism was not made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that such suspicious behavior constitutes, is indicative of, or is in furtherance of, a crime or an act of terrorism must be pled with particularity pursuant to subdivision (b) of rule three thousand sixteen of the civil practice law and rules.
The new law takes effect immediately.
It is a fitting tribute to those lost on September 11th, that this new law goes into effect. We all need to be vigilant to the possibility of terrorist attacks, and we don’t need to be worried about lawyers scrutinizing that vigilance.