At one point during the 2010 legislative session, Rep. Marv Hagedorn's, R-Meridian, bill to prevent the use of fake bombs in criminal acts in public spaces was killed in committee because lawmakers felt some of the language contained in the legislation was too ambiguous and could have negative unintended consequences.
Wednesday, Hagedorn's bill, after being passed by the House, came one step closer to passage as it received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hagedorn presented his plan to committee members, a plan which, he feels, will lead to greater safety in Idaho.
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 the 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.
The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
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