What Are the Consequences for Making Bomb Threats?


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Some believe bomb threats to be an extravagant prank, others use them to avoid responsibilities like exams or bills, and still others use them to hide some other nefarious purpose. Whatever the reason, making bomb threats is a very serious crime with heavy criminal penalties. So what are the consequences for making bomb threats?

First, it is worth noting that most bomb threats are hoaxes. Unfortunately, it is because of the few that are not that such vigilance must be maintained whenever a threat is made. Upon receiving a bomb threat, the person or institution involved will typically notify law enforcement. This leads to the notification of a number of other agencies, depending on who the threat is made to and how credible it is, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI); the Department of Homeland Security; the Secret Service; and others. These agencies are often forced to expend considerable man hours determining whether a true threat exists, sweeping for explosive devices, identifying who made the threat, determining whether others are involved, interviewing witnesses and suspects, etc. All told, someone's “prank” could easily cost taxpayers millions of dollars in a single day, and divert resources from other, more important tasks associated with investigating real crimes.

As a result, the penalties for making a bomb threat can be quite severe. On a state level, the laws vary by jurisdiction. But, generally, one can be expected to be charged with a felony (a crime punishable by more than a year in prison), and the severity of the crime charged and the penalty given will also vary by the circumstances of the threat. Indeed, if an actual explosive device (or a dummy device meant to look like an actual explosive) is used, the penalties will be substantially higher, and could include multiple counts of attempted murder. On a federal level, one can expect to face possible charges related to terrorism. Of course, all of these crimes will usually include financial penalties that are in addition to the prison sentences, and will probably have some relation to the expense associated with investigating the threat which, as mentioned, can be staggeringly expensive given the number of government agencies involved.

Some have tried to use various methods of masking their identities when carrying out such bomb threats, like using anonymous email addresses, printing threats from publicly accessible computers and printers, calling in threats from someone else's phone, etc. While in a tiny fraction of cases these measures may be sufficient to avoid detection by the massive and very well-equipped government agencies that will be hunting for the perpetrators, it also has the effect of both demonstrating an intent to evade detection (a possible sentencing aggravator) and possibly drawing additional charges for computer, telecommunications, or postal crimes.

Most bomb threats are made against government buildings and places of employment, usually by a person with political grievances, issues with the legal system, or a disgruntled employee. A small percentage of threats (about 5% in 1999, the last year the FBI kept statistics on bomb threats) are against schools, but these can often have the most dire penalties for the perpetrators.

If you are considering making a bomb threat, do not. You will be caught and will spend a considerable portion of your life in prison. If, on the other hand, you have been accused of making a bomb threat, you should seek the immediate assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney familiar with both state and federal criminal law. You can find a list of attorneys by visiting HG.org's Law Firms page and searching by your location.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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