The use of fake bombs in criminals acts is not punished severely enough by the state, says Meridian Republican Rep. Marv Hagedorn. The House moved Friday to change that and provide for harsher penalties for those using "hoax destructive devices" during a crime. Legislators voted 67-0 to approve the bill Hagedorn believes will help in deterring the use of fake bombs.
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.
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 to deal with such incidents, says Hagedorn. Though there are Idaho laws in place concerning 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.
The Meridian Republican said he has engaged with people critical of the legislation because they didn't see how a fake bomb could actually be injurious to citizens. Hagedorn said that if someone sees one of the fake bombs, runs into a street, and is subsequently hit by a car, that would prove "injurious."
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 not be subject to criminal charges unless the prosecutor could prove criminal intent.
"This will not be easily levied upon a person," said Hagedorn on the House floor. He added that he feels it would be difficult for a prosecutor to charge someone with this crime, but said he wants to add the provision to state law to give a prosecutor the option to do so.
The bill now heads to the Senate for further deliberation.