Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, introduced legislation Thursday he claims will help deter bomb threat hoaxes in Idaho.
Hagedorn testified before the House State Affairs Committee, saying the plan would allow prosecutors greater powers when dealing with bomb threats. If passed, it would be felony to carry out a hoax bomb threat, punishable by up to a $25,000 fine and five years in a state correctional facility. The bill also outlines what the state should define as a hoax destructive device.
The legislation comes in response to a hoax bomb threat in Boise early last year. Officials evacuated more than 2,000 people 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.
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, the most someone who participates in bomb threat could be charged with in Idaho is disturbing the peace or trespassing on certain and specific occasions.
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, expressed the concern the penalty could be applied to somebody trying to play a trick on a friend. Hagedorn said the application of the punishment would not be required and would only give local prosecutors additional “tools” to punish offenders. Under the plan, the fine and jail time would also only be applied at a prosecutor’s discretion.
In an interview with IdahoReporter.com following the hearing, Hagedorn said the measure is not only to protect the general public from the nuisance caused by hoaxes, but will also cut down on the possibility of people using hoaxes as diversions for larger attacks.
“There is potential for those kinds of things to happen,” Hagedorn said. “As much as we need the capability to charge people who do bad things, we need laws on the books that will deter people from doing bad things as well.”
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