For those thinking of using "hoax destructive devices," also known as fake bombs, in bomb threats or even pranks on the public, it might be wise to think again. The House State Affairs Committee gave its approval Tuesday to Rep. Marv Hagedorn's, R-Meridian, bill to establish penalties for those who "knowingly and willingly" use fake bombs with criminal intent.
The hearing on the issue was Hagedorn's second attempt to push the legislation through committee; his first attempted ended when he withdrew the bill due to ambiguous language. Committee members passed the legislation Tuesday without opposition.
The legislation comes in response to a hoax bomb threat in Boise early last year. Officials evacuated more than 2,000 people at the Boise Towne Square Mall after finding five suspicious packages in the mall. The complex was shut down for 6-7 hours as first responders, including firemen, police, medics, and SWAT teams investigated the packages. The mall was safely cleared after the Boise Police Department (BPD) bomb-sniffing dogs confirmed no actual bombs were on the property. According to BPD, the packages found in the mall were hoax devices designed specifically to look like actual explosive ordinances.
“Everybody was down around the mall instead of out protecting the people,” said Hagedorn at a previous hearing on the bill.
Idaho has no appropriate law which deals with such incidents, says Hagedorn. Though there are Idaho laws in place to deal with punishments for actual bomb attacks and threats, the most someone who uses fakes bombs in a threatening manner could be charged with in Idaho is disturbing the peace or trespassing on certain and specific occasions.
Under Hadegorn's plan, those who use fake bombs with criminal intent would be punishable by a felony with up to five years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. That sentence would mirror the current penalty for making or calling in a bomb threat.
Those playing jokes on friends with "hoax destructive devices" would not be punishable by law, notes Hagedorn. He said, in a previous hearing, that prosecutors would be required to show malicious intent during court proceedings, and jokes played on friends would not qualify. Also, those who accidentally leave something that appears to be a bomb - a briefcase or backpack - in a public place would also not be subject to criminal charges unless the prosecutor could prove criminal intent.
The legislation now heads to the full House for further deliberation. It has merited the applause of the Fraternal Order of Police, which believes the penalty will serve as a deterrent to anyone considering using fakes bombs in a criminal manner.