When a hoax turns into a felony

Terrorist threats in West Virginia are no joke, even if the actor never intends to take any of the actions he or she has threatened.

This type of felony conviction results in jail time. It also comes with hefty fines and, perhaps a surprise to some, restitution requirements.

A hoax of a bomb threat

If the state convicts a person of a terroristic threat in West Virginia, such as calling in a bomb scare to a store, the person will deal with major legal repercussions. It does not matter that the person meant the threat only has a hoax.

In a recent Walmart bomb scare, the management and the authorities closed the store and evacuated employees and customers temporarily. Someone had found a note in a bathroom, threatening the existence of a bomb in the store. Because the bomb squad determined that there was no bomb and there was no other credible threat, the Walmart opened a short time later. However, is that the end of it? No harm no foul? No.

Stiff penalties and a felony

In West Virginia and elsewhere, a hoax can land the person making the threat in big trouble. To knowingly threaten to do a terrorist action, even if the person has no intention at all of actually carrying out the threatened act, is a felony crime. A conviction of the threat can result in a fine of $5,000 to $25,000 and one to three years of incarceration. The same punishment is applicable to falsely claiming that an act of terror is unfolding or will be occurring.

Moreover, the convicted person will suffer far more expenses than the fine. He or she will be liable for restitution of the victims’ expenses, such as lost wages of employees who could not work because of a store closing or evacuation. Another significant cost of the criminal behavior is that of the business itself. The overhead costs of having to close business for a length of time will be a part of the restitution the convicted individual will typically be responsible for.

The convicted will also be responsible for reimbursing the state or local government for the cost of law enforcement, investigation and other costs relating to the necessary response to the threat.

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