SDN Blog

Guest blog: Clogging public safety call centers could become felony in SD

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blog written by Super

The midway point of the South Dakota Legislature comes this week, but much like running a marathon, the first half is also the easiest.

Lawmakers have a host of thorny issues to deal with over the next two weeks before Crossover Day, one of the major deadlines/milestones of the legislative calendar. Legislative rules stipulate that every bill introduced in the Legislature must have a committee hearing. At the hearing, final action must be taken—either the bill is forwarded to the full House or Senate for a vote, or it’s killed in committee.

Crossover Day is the day when all bills that started in the House must be passed by the House and sent to the Senate or killed in a House committee or on the House floor. The same is true for all Senate bills. This deadline keeps legislators on task as they work through almost 450 bills this legislative session.

There are a couple of bills of interest to those in the communications/technology world that will be in front of legislative committees this week.

On Tuesday (February 11), the Senate Judiciary committee will hold a hearing on SB 143, sponsored by Sen. Shantel Krebs (R-Renner). The bill would provide for a civil penalty for a bad faith assertion of patent infringement. These bad faith assertions on patent infringement are more commonly known as patent trolls. In most cases, companies receive letters threatening legal action based on the fact that their business may be using a process or machine that incorporates a patented item or process owned by the individual sending the letter.

The letter threatens legal action based on a patent violation and asks that the potential defendant enter into settlement negotiations. Many times these claims of patent violations are frivolous but some companies would rather settle out of court for a small sum versus going through a possible protracted legal proceeding.

Other states along with the federal government are starting to work on solutions for this growing problem.

The other bill of interest that will be heard this week is HB 1094, sponsored by Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-Aberdeen). This bill would make it a class 6 felony to knowingly disrupt the operations of a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) or 911 center.

There were reports in South Dakota over the past year where a PSAP was bombarded with more than 100 calls from out of state. The caller intentionally left the line open for long periods of time and verbally harassed the dispatchers. This caused a number of problems for the PSAP in question.

Currently, South Dakota law only attaches a misdemeanor charge to such a crime, which makes it difficult to reach across state lines and prosecute individuals who perpetrate such a crime. If the crime were changed to a felony, law enforcement would be able to seek out and arrest the suspects.

Greg Dean is the Director of Industry Relations for the South Dakota Telecommunications Association.

Editor's Update: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 143, the patent troll bill, with a vote of 6-0.  It is now headed to the Senate floor.