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Making a Bomb Threat: What Can Happen?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

What can happen to a person who makes a bomb threat?

Bomb threats are taken very seriously by local and federal law enforcement, as San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith learned Sunday. Smith was arrested after allegedly making a false bomb threat during a dispute at Los Angeles International Airport.

Responding to a fake bomb threat is costly to law enforcement, and the legal system doesn't look too kindly upon it either. Here's what state and federal laws say can potentially happen to anyone who makes a bomb threat:

Federal Law

Fake bomb threats have been called in for various reasons, even avoiding college exams. Under federal law, anyone who intentionally makes a false bomb threat that "may reasonably be believed" may be fined or imprisoned for up to five years. If serious bodily injury somehow results, then the sentence can go up to 20 years.


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Under another federal statute, indviduals who willfully make a threat or maliciously convey false information concerning an attempt to injure, kill, or destroy property through the use of explosives can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. The threats can be made through mail, email, or phone.

State Law

Each state also has laws that deal with bomb threats. For example, in California, making a false report of a bomb threat can get you up to a year in county jail. Under the California statute, the false report must be made to specific people such as a peace officer, newspaper reporter, or airport employee, and the person making the threat must know it's false.

In other states like Missouri, making a bomb threat can be considered a terrorist threat. For example, a St. Louis man was arrested after tweeting that he would use an explosive device at the World Series last fall. There are several ways Missouri defines a terrorist threat, like intending to endanger someone's life or knowingly causing a false belief about a dangerous condition to human life.

Every state treats bomb threats differently, but the bottom line is that if you make one, you'll face serious legal consequences and may even end up behind bars.

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