California Bomb Threats and False Bomb Threats Penal Code 148.1
Bomb threat reporting is actually governed by the California Penal Code, because there are so many false reports each year that the legislature has determined it to be a crime to report false bomb threats. According to California Penal Code 148.1, any person that reports in any way that a bomb or another explosive has been or will be placed in a public or private place, knowing the report is false, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The code also makes it illegal to report a false bomb threat to someone else in order to scare them. The key to the latter being that the person reporting a bomb threat had to actually intend to scare the person receiving the threat, by inciting fear that the person or others are in danger.
The government takes these cases very seriously, given the current political climate of our country and the seriousness of the false claim.
How to Report a Bomb Threat
Reporting bomb threats is very important. Besides the obviousness of the danger an explosive device poses in a public place, police and law enforcement officials simply cannot be everywhere. They rely a surprising amount on the participation of the public in reporting suspicious packages that may be bombs, as well as other forms of reporting.
These reports may be made to police or other law enforcement officers, the media or news stations, the district attorney or Department of Justice, by mail or by speech, by yelling in a crowded bus station or airport or building, by text, or simply by a person wishing to scare another person or group of people.
No matter the form, valid and credible bomb threat reports are a benefit to society at large, but false reports are very dangerous.
Dangers of False Bomb Threats
Due to the egregiousness of reporting a bomb threat, police tend to respond in forces. If there was never a real threat, the police will have been called to a scene and pulled from enforcing other laws and attending to other matters. This creates a void of police officers in areas that may need or require their presence.
In addition, false reports may cause unnecessary foot or vehicle traffic, condensing many people into a small area, which creates other dangers, as well.
If a person reports a bomb threat they know is untrue at an airport, for example, thousands of people will be running and scrambling to exit the airport in a likely unsafe manner, which could lead to numerous further injuries and chaos.
Penalties for Falsely Reporting a Bomb Threat
A person charged with falsely reporting a bomb threat faces a misdemeanor conviction. Not only will the conviction be a scar on that person’s record, but it may also carry a fine of up to $1,000 and a penalty of up to one year in jail, as well as counseling, community service, and a pre-determined term of probation, as decided by the district attorney.
Also, the result of a conviction can lead to difficulty finding employment, owning firearms, and retaining loans. It may also subject the person that made the threat to a restraining order by the State of California. If the person made the threat with malice, which is the intent to hurt or scare someone or some group, the restraining order will force the threat-maker to maintain a safe distance from the person or group they threatened.
Defenses to Claims that you Falsely Reported a Bomb Threat
When charged with a crime, the prosecuting attorney is required to prove to a judge or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime. This is done by proving each element of the crime. In this situation, the prosecutor would have to prove you made the report, you knew the report was false, and potentially that you had the intent to scare someone or a group of people by making the false report.
Casting doubt on any one element of the crime will be enough to acquit you on these charges, and makes hiring a skilled defense attorney vital. Your attorney may be able to show that you were falsely accused of the crime or that you simply thought the report was true. If you report a bomb threat that turns out to be false, but you had a genuine and reasonable belief that it was true when you made the report, you cannot be convicted.
To convict you of the second part of Penal Code 148.1, the prosecutor must prove you also had the intent to scare or intimidate another by making the report. Proving intent can be difficult without direct evidence that you wanted to scare someone, so your defense attorney may be able to cast doubt on this element of the crime, as well.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.