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Crime of Filing a False Report of Terrorism

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Is it Illegal to File a False Report of Terrorism?

Yes- many states now have statutes which make it illegal for a person to make a false report of a terrorist attack or threat. Such false claims are considered to be a great waste of resources, including, time, money, and personnel that could be devoted to real attacks. 
 
The main concern regarding false reports of terrorist activity is that they can have the same effect on the public as a real report. That is, the public may respond to the threat as if it were real, which could result in further disorder or injury. As a result, many states categorize false reports of terrorism as a felony. Some states that have passed such laws include New York and Michigan.

What Are the Legal Consequences of the Crime of False Report of Terrorism?

In many states the crime of false report of terrorism include prison time in a federal facility, with sentences ranging anywhere from 7-20 years. The consequences may also include heavy fines as well. Some states consider the crime to be a violent felony, even if the defendant did not specifically commit any violent acts.
 
The elements for proving false report of terrorism include:
 
  • Making a false report of a terrorist act or a terrorist threat
  • Knowledge that the report is untrue
  • Communicating such false report to another person
Note that the definition also includes making reports about fake threats, and not just terrorist actions. It could also include falsely accusing another person of being a terrorist while knowing the accusation is false. 
 
A common example of this crime is when a person makes a phone call to the police stating that a bomb has been placed in a public place such as an airport or a stadium. If the person knew that the threat was false, they will likely be held liable under criminal laws, and will receive a felony on their criminal record.
 
Since the crime is considered to be a felony, it could have affects on other rights that are available to the person, such as immigration status or the right to bear arms.

Is this Different From Lying to the Police or Making a False Statement?

The crime of lying to the police is a more general crime that does not necessarily always deal with terrorism. Also, making a false statement in court is considered a different crime (perjury) and is dealt with in a different manner than the crime of false report of terrorism. 
 
For your information, the crime of false report of terrorism focuses the act or a threat of terrorism. It need not be communicated to a police or other authorities; making the report to a neighbor or co-worker could be considered enough to trigger the offense. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for False Report of Terrorism Issues?

If you must make a report regarding terrorist activity, you should be absolutely sure that the report is not false. To do so otherwise could result in serious criminal penalties. You may wish to contact a lawyer if you are facing the charge of false report of terrorism. A lawyer can inform you whether any defenses are available, such as a lack of knowledge that the statement is false. In any event, you should exercise caution when reporting any perceived acts of terrorism. 

 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-19-2016 05:17 PM PDT

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