Harsher Penalties for False Reporting and Terroristic Threats

In our day and age, we have seen mass shootings and violence as a regular daily threat. We have countdowns attributed to the number of consecutive shootings that have occurred within a week, a month, or a year. The threat of violence is no longer seen as a threat and more and more, we are taught how to identify a potentially threatening situation and how to react. However, because these threats have made themselves more and more credible, we take every report of threat of violence as truth. What should happen to those who false report? If you or a loved one have been arrested for false reporting or terroristic threats against others, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Threats of Gun Violence Once a Misdemeanor, Now a Felony

The Florida legislature is also attempting to find solutions in our ever-more violent society. Not only will Florida take acts of violence seriously, but a new law effective in October of 2016 will raise awareness about the felony penalties associated with false reporting. This will ensure that terroristic threats and threats of gun violence at schools, for example, will no longer just be a misdemeanor and criminal mischief for disturbing the peace (as was the status quo), but will finally be taken seriously as a felony offense.

Florida’s Stance on False Reporting

According to the new law, established in Section 790.163, false reporting and terrorist threats will receive harsher penalties to ensure someone pays for causing mass hysteria or fear around the State. Under the new law, the false reporting that someone is threatening to use a firearm in a violent way will be included into the list of false reporting felonies. These include false reports of: planted bombs, planted explosives, or the presence of any weapons of mass destruction. Under the law, false reporting relates to a person who has the intent to misinform, deceive, or otherwise mislead another person or persons regarding the presence of bombs, explosives, weapons of mass destruction, and now, someone threatening to use a firearm. A person who is convicted of false reporting with intent to deceive or mislead will receive a second degree felony charge.

The bill also makes it a felony in the second degree to false report about potential acts of violence relating to acts of violence or arson against state-owned property or other property owned by a political entity.

How to Establish Intent in False Reporting

To establish the presence of prima facie evidence of intent, it is enough that the person made the false report knowing that it was false. That is enough evidence to show that the person had the intent to deceive, misinform, or otherwise mislead. In addition, any actions taken by law enforcement, and their associated costs and damages, must be paid by the false reporter. This would include the costs of evacuating a building, calling an ambulance, and other safety precautions that draw from the public coffers.

Stiffer Punishments for False Reports and Threats of Violence Against Likelier Victims of Violence

Finally, the bill focuses on vulnerable populations that may be more likely to receive false reports or threats of violence. These include law enforcement officers, state attorneys, firefighters, an elected or appointed official, or a judge, as well as, their family members, which can mean any person that is related by blood or marriage, or where the relationship reflects one of the individuals taking care of another but who is neither related by blood or marriage.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.