A plan presented to the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee by Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, to deter the use of hoax devices in bomb threats has stalled.
During the hearing on the matter Wednesday, Hagedorn said the bill is needed to fix a loophole in current law that doesn’t punish the use of a hoax device. He added that a hoax device is something that is reasonably intended to look like an explosive ordinance. In Idaho, Hagedorn said, it is punishable by law to actually call in a bomb threat, but there is no additional penalty enhancement for placing hoax devices around places of business or government buildings in the carrying out of a bomb threat. He said that placing fake devices should be on the same level as shouting fire in a crowded theatre.
The penalty for calling in a bomb threat is a felony and it punishable by up to five years in prison. The penalty for the use of a fake device in a bomb would mirror that punishment if the legislation is passed.
Hagedorn also addressed lawmakers’ concerns the legislation could overreach its intended uses. Chairman Jim Clark, R-Hayden, said he is concerned that people playing jokes on each other might be targeted under the Hagedorn plan.
Hagedorn said the bill ensures that police officers and prosecutors will not be allowed to go after those playing jokes because the legislation requires that a victim must be present for prosecution to go forward. If there exists no victim to report the use of a device, then there is no crime, argued Hagedorn.
The committee voted to hold the bill over certain language of the legislation.
“It was confusing,” said Clark. “It needed another section to define a hoax.” Clark said he is in favor of the concept behind the legislation, but wanted to ensure clarity on the issue.
Hagedorn will now decide the fate of the bill and will likely retool it to continue pushing the plan forward.