In some situations, federal charges of conveying false information can be filed by a prosecutor, which carries harsh penalties if convicted. This federal statute covers a bomb hoax.
18 U.S. Code 35 imposes civil and criminal felony penalties for conveying false information regarding attempts or alleged attempts to destroy, damage, or disable aircraft, aircraft-related facilities, or motor vehicles and their related facilities.
The crime of “imparting or conveying false information” is generally described as willfully conveying false information with a disregard for human safety.
18 U.S.C. 35(a) says, “(a) Whoever imparts or conveys or causes to be imparted or conveyed false information, knowing the information to be false, concerning an attempt or alleged attempt being made or to be made, to do any act which would be a crime prohibited by this chapter or chapter 97 or chapter 111 of this title shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 which shall be recoverable in a civil action brought in the name of the United States.”
Suppose you have been accused of conveying false information. In that case, you should immediately consult an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to review the details and legal options. Let's check this federal law further below.
False Information – Explained
Several sections of the federal law address “false information.” Specifically, 18 U.S.C. 35 makes it a federal offense to convey false info regarding aircraft, motor vehicles, and their facilities, such as hoaxes, including the following:
- Bomb threats;
- Terroristic threats;
- Fire alarms;
- Other criminal acts.
In other words, this law prohibits any conduct intending to convey false or misleading information about activities that have happened or are about to happen. This hoax is not only a waste of resources; it can cause panic where people are injured or killed.
Suppose authorities respond to a school at a fake bomb threat at a school. In that case, it will disrupt classes and often result in severe emotional trauma for the students and their parents.
Hoaxes can lead to far harsh consequences. Conveying this type of false information on purpose can destroy someone's life, and some people have been killed when emergency personnel responded to what they believed was a real threat.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 2 Aircraft and Motor Vehicles has several federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 35 imparting or conveying false information, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 31 – Definitions;
- 18 U.S.C. 32 – Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities;
- 18 U.S.C. 33 – Destruction of motor vehicles or facilities;
- 18 U.S.C. 34 – Penalty when death results;
- 18 U.S.C. 36 – Drive-by shooting;
- 18 U.S.C. 37 – Violence at international airports;
- 18 U.S.C. 38 – Fraud involving aircraft or space vehicle parts;
- 18 U.S.C. 39 – Traffic signal preemption transmitters;
- 18 U.S.C. 39A – Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft;
- 18 U.S.C. 39B – Unsafe operation of unmanned aircraft;
- 18 U.S.C. 40 – Commercial vehicles required to stop for inspections;
- 18 U.S.C. 40A – Operation of unauthorized unmanned aircraft over wildfires.
What are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 35?
Suppose you are convicted of conveying false information under federal law. In that case, the penalties will vary based on the details of the offense, such as the following:
- Under normal circumstances, you would be facing five years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a fine;
- if serious bodily injury results from false information, the maximum sentence is raised to 20 years;
- If death should result, it is possible to be sentenced to life in prison;
- Additional penalties include reimbursing the government for any services that were used as a result of the false information;
- Liable to any party incurring expenses for any emergency response;
- The law allows for civil action to be brought against offenders;
Further, statements that impart or convey false information regarding attempts to place or the placing of explosives aboard aircraft, excluding aircraft facilities such as airports, are punishable under 49 U.S.C. 46507(1).
This statute provides for a felony penalty, and under 49 U.S.C. 46302, there is a civil penalty for furnishing false information about alleged attempts to commit specific Title 49 offenses.
What are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 35?
Suppose you are accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 35 by conveying false information. In that case, a federal criminal defense lawyer could use different strategies to avoid a conviction.
Perhaps we can argue that the First Amendment protects your right to free speech, but there are limits to this type of defense, as speech that causes harm to others is not covered.
Perhaps we can argue that the information you gave law enforcement authorities wasn't criminal. Recall that federal prosecutors must prove you intended to convey false information to obtain a conviction.
Sometimes, it could be challenging to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you made a false statement or acted out of a good faith belief that other people were in danger.
Simply put, maybe we can say that you did not know the information was false or did not intend it to cause harm. Suppose you acting in good faith.
If you are under investigation or indicted for a federal crime related to conveying false information, contact our law firm by phone or via the contact form for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.