Bomb Threat Bill Would Enhance Punishments for Criminals

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A bill being considered by the Texas legislature would make it a felony to call in a bomb threat to an institution of higher learning.

Right now under Texas Penal Code Section 42.06 entitled "False Alarm and Report," it is a Class A misdemeanor to call in a threat except if it's against primary or secondary schools and a variety of other services. Those threats are considered state jail felonies.

House Bill 1284, filed by State Representative Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), would add public or private institutions of higher learning to that list (see below).

Texas A&M has seen a number of recent bomb threats that involved evacuations. None turned out to be legitimate.

Tuesday, the Texas House committee on criminal jurisprudence will have a public hearing where the bill will be discussed.

Per its policy, Texas A&M does not comment on pending legislation. A representative from the university, Vice President for Administration Rodney McClendon, will be in Austin to serve as a resource, according to the university, but is not scheduled to testify.

A Class A misdemeanor can carry no more than one year in jail and/or a fine of no more than $4,000. A state jail felony can carry no less than 180 days in state jail, but no more than two years. A fine could be assessed at no more than $10,000.

Johnson's office says he wanted to work on the issue after seeing the reports of numerous bomb threats at universities and schools across the state, along with the associated costs incurred by local governments and agencies responding to those threats.

Current Texas law
§ 42.06. FALSE ALARM OR REPORT. (a) A person commits an
offense if he knowingly initiates, communicates or circulates a
report of a present, past, or future bombing, fire, offense, or
other emergency that he knows is false or baseless and that would
(1) cause action by an official or volunteer agency
organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily
injury; or
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building,
room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, or
aircraft, automobile, or other mode of conveyance.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor
unless the false report is of an emergency involving a public
primary or secondary school, public communications, public
transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public
service, in which event the offense is a state jail felony.