General Question

rockfan's avatar

Should someone really face up to 5 years for drunkenly calling in a bomb threat?

Asked by rockfan (9347points) April 10th, 2018 from iPhone

The actor T.J. Miller was heavily intoxicated and called in a bomb threat on an Amtrak train, and if charged he can face up to 5 years in prison, although highly unlikely. Still I think it’s ludicrous for someone to spend time in jail for even two years for doing this. Why not just a hefty fine and community service? And shouldn’t intent be a factor? But I guess I can change my mind if someone lays out a good argument.

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39 Answers

kritiper's avatar

It sounds about right. The court may see fit to not be so harsh… But facing that much time would be a good deterrent.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Based on the article, he knew what he was doing when he described the woman, etc… It’s like calling 9–1-1 for fun, not allowed. So to me, he needs to grow up. Do the crime, do the time.

funkdaddy's avatar

Up to 5 years. Meaning that’s the maximum sentence someone who was charged with that just that could get. If someone called in a bomb threat, and it resulted in the death of several people, the most they could get for that charge is 5 years.

This is the classic falsely shouting fire in a theatre example.

Remember the guy who falsely called in an active shooter on someone over a video game? How much time should that guy serve?

There is no mandatory minimum sentence that I know of. I wouldn’t freak out about the maximum if there truly was no harm.

zenvelo's avatar

Maximum sentence doesn’t mean everyone is sentenced that.

But fine and community service isn’t really enough, considering the rest of his behaviors. And if something had happened because of what he did?

6 months in jail and 5 years probation would teach him a lesson.

Zaku's avatar

@funkdaddy Rightly points out that it is up to 5 years, which makes sense for the nastiest cases (e.g. someone’s not drunk and does it in a way that causes serious problems and somehow endangers people). And no minimum, so if the judge agrees with you, he could assign a wrist-slap with a wet noodle.

I think it’s slightly different from shouting fire in a theatre in that it seems less likely to cause an immediate dangerous panic – the authorities would probably quietly do what was needed without causing a stampede. But being liable for the costs and impact of it would make sense.

filmfann's avatar

I can’t imagine a circumstance where 5 years would seem fine. One year tops

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would keep it on the books to scare people straight and not actualy carry though with the punishment. Who’s really scared of community service and a small fine.

ragingloli's avatar

Better than being convicted for murder over the death of your accomplice who was shot by the pigs.

flutherother's avatar

Bomb threats must be taken very seriously these days and they can cause huge disruption. They might even be used to distract from a real bomb planted elsewhere. On the other hand you don’t want to discourage people from reporting suspicious packages. This is why we have courts and judges to look at the circumstances and decide what, if any, punishment is appropriate. Five years doesn’t seem excessive as a maximum.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Most people when faced with reimbursing the cost of what it takes to respond and the disruptions caused by such an event would probably choose to spend the jail time.

rockfan's avatar

I mentioned that it was up to 5 years, not sure why some people are mentioning it in their comments lol

2davidc8's avatar

You betcha. That’s a serious offense.

seawulf575's avatar

I guess my thought is: what if we let him off with a slap on the wrist? Does this become the new norm? When you get drunk and belligerent with someone you can just report them as a terrorist threat and get away with it? Then what happens when someone really does see something and calls it in?

YARNLADY's avatar

I think jail time is ridiculous, he should be charged for every cent he cost every agency involved plus damages for mental anguish he caused.

marinelife's avatar

A bomb threat is very terrifying to the public. First responders have to take it very seriously. They have to roll a lot of police, fire, and ambulances, not to mention the bomb squad. All of that (just mobilizing those resources) costs a ton of money not to mention traffic tie-ups. etc. I think the sentence is very well justified.

seawulf575's avatar

Wouldn’t charging for the cost be racist since poor people couldn’t afford the same punishment?

YARNLADY's avatar

Are you say “poor people” is a race?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf575 Poor people can usually do more community service or even spend time in jail instead of paying money. I’ve never been personally but that’s what I hear.

seawulf575's avatar

@YARNLADY No, I’m not saying “poor people” is a race. But that is the argument against voter ID laws…they are racist because they are an undue cost on poor people and that most minorities are poor. So they are racist. Wouldn’t this follow the same logic?

seawulf575's avatar

@KNOWITALL so rich people can buy their way out of it, but poor people have to do the time? How is that any different than all the issues that people are screaming about these days? Rich people are given beneficial treatment but poor people get screwed?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Seawulf Way of the world, you know that. I had a friend who spent a year in instead of owing. It turned his life around.

seawulf575's avatar

@KNOWITALL Yeah, I know it is the way of the world. It also happens to be an attitude that many of these jellies have railed against in the past. Just trying to figure out the hierarchy of the opinions…when is giving the wealthy a break is okay and all that.

YARNLADY's avatar

So maybe we should do away with money completely. It isn’t fair that some people can afford lovely homes in safe neighborhoods while the poor have to live in run down houses in crime-filled neighborhoods, and don’t have the latest technology, or enough food to eat. They can’t afford a housekeeper or new car, and so on and so on, so we should all do without

You are asking why should the wealthy be held financially responsible for their bad behavior when the poor can’t afford the same thing?

seawulf575's avatar

No, I’m asking for clarification. On one hand (voter ID), it is racist to suggest such a thing because of the financial burden on the poor which are mainly minority. On the other we suggest that we should allow the wealthy to pay off their bad behavior, but would incarcerate the poor. Seems to me that we are still dealing with racism, aren’t we? Remember, justice is supposed to be blind so the penalties should be equal for all, shouldn’t they? But apparently if some wealthy person gets drunk and calls in a bomb threat, he should be able to just pay it off while if a poor person does it they should go to jail.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf575 Income equality is a fact, but I believe the voter ID thing is completely a political move, not in any way protecting people who can’t afford a photo id such as a drivers license. I could be wrong of course, but i think it was Reps saying it’s a security issue, and
Dems saying the poor couldn’t afford an $11 non drivers license.

seawulf575's avatar

@KNOWITALL exactly. And even when states have offered to give IDs free of charge, it is still touted as a racist action. But the point is that we will look at one action that costs a few dollars and say it is racist and look at another that could cost thousands and say it isn’t. Either the punishment is the same or it isn’t, otherwise how do you justify it being anything other than racist? Especially if you believe Voter ID laws are racist?

funkdaddy's avatar

Voter ID laws fail (and are called discriminatory) because they’re constructed not to identify the person, but to place an additional step in the voting process. They require very specific, state issued IDs, that take time to get.

Here’s the list for the Texas effort

State driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.

The fight is because there’s supposed to be no impediment to legal voting and there’s a long history of trying to control the polls through poll taxes, or other requirements, with clauses that allow people to vote if you’re father or grandfather had voted previously. Effectively only turning away the women, poor, or recently immigrated.

It’s considered racist because it has a long racist history. Ignoring that history, or equating being poor with being a criminal, doesn’t make for an enlightened argument.

seawulf575's avatar

See, that’s the funny part. I always thought legal voting was the important thing. What you are describing is that we should never actually make an effort towards ensuring that legal voting occurs. So I guess that is what is discriminatory. Because really nothing says discrimination like trying to ensure legal voting happens. But here is where the discrimination falls apart…it applies to everyone. But it applies to everyone equally. And the argument that has always been thrown at me is that merely pushing for Voter ID laws is racist and the rationale is that poor people can’t afford the ID and that deters them from voting. And since many blacks or hispanics are poor, it is an effort to deter them from voting. Yet my challenge is how can you have a law that doesn’t apply to everyone equally? That was what was being suggested…that we enforce the law differently. I’m not equating poor to being a criminal. I grew up poor and was not a criminal. But why would you even think about enforcing laws to different standards?

flutherother's avatar

Let’s say a law was passed stipulating that only owners of property in the US could vote in US elections. That law would apply equally to all but would also be discriminatory.

Illegal voting is not a problem in US elections and there is no need for new voter ID laws. I am suspicious of the motives of those who press for it.

zenvelo's avatar

@seawulf575 Because historically they have not been enforced equally. Residents of wealthy white suburbs have not had to show ID, and are often encouraged to register and vote on election day without any proof of residency or of citizenship.

Meanwhile, in poor minority neighborhoods, the letter of the law is upheld and registered voters denied access to the ballot.

In some states, there is no easy access to the DMV for a state issues idea; it might be in another county or a hundred miles away. Yet minority elderly have to show up in person to get their voter ID renewed so they can vote.

Under Jim Crow, “tests” with trick questions were only given to African Americans, while whites who could not have passed either, did not have to take a test. That was eliminated under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but the effort remains to disenfranchise people.

seawulf575's avatar

@flutherother No, that would not apply equally to all. It would apply to a small percentage of the population and would not be fair. And the argument that illegal voting is not a problem in th US is bogus when every effort is made to eliminate any way to track it. We have had issues where thousands have been registered to vote illegally in most of the states. But battles are fought to hide all ways of ensuring they don’t vote. Why is that? Voter ID wouldn’t stop all of them, but would deter illegal voting and/or give us a way of tracking when illegal voting occurs. And here’s the part I don’t understand…what sort of hurdle is it, really? Most people have no problem showing an ID for all sorts of things in this country. Buying cigarettes or beer or even a gun, when purchasing an airline ticket and when boarding/going through security, and even to gain access to some buildings. But no one says any of these things are racist for demanding a person show a valid ID. So why is it so onerous when it comes to voting? I am equally suspicious of the movtives of those that fight against it.

But this is still avoiding the original question. Why is it so horrible and racist to pass a law that would require a voter ID yet it seems okay by some on here to pass punishments for laws that are not the same for all and are decided by your wealth. That seems extremely unfair over all to me and should spark more outrage than it apparently does.

seawulf575's avatar

@zenvelo All that you bring up is really strawman. I’m actually suggesting that the law gets applied to all. I would have no problem with being asked to get an ID to vote. It is a great responsibility, voting, and is worth the effort. There will always be cases where one or two people have a hard time getting it. I’ve been to Wyoming and seen those situations where someone lives 50–100 miles from anything. But funny thing…they manage to get their drivers license to get around. I’ve also heard the bogus argument that many elderly were not born in hospitals and didn’t get a birth certificate. My mom is 89 and was born at home. She has a birth certificate and a drivers license. It isn’t that difficult to do.

But I find it odd that you are jumping onto my side of the question I asked. You are arguing that voter ID laws that would apply to everyone are somehow racist, yet there are some on this page that have suggested we should enforce our laws to a different standard based on wealth of the criminal. Why aren’t you arguing against that?

funkdaddy's avatar

@seawulf575 – serious question, why do you personally care about Voter ID laws? Part of the problem with them and the reason many are skeptical of intent is because there isn’t a problem the new laws solve.

Voting should be as easy as possible and participation should be encouraged at all levels. We have trouble getting 40% to the polls in anything but a presidential election. Local elections often see 10% turnout.

seawulf575's avatar

@funkdaddy I care because I view voting as one of our great powers and people of this nation. I care because the way things are now, there is no way to verify if someone is voting illegally or not unless they are really, really stupid. There have been many examples of illegal registrations in almost all states, yet the argument becomes “you can’t prove they voted!”. Why should I have to? If they are illegally registered they have the ability to be an illegal voter, whether they have voted or not. I care because when people fight as hard as they do against every effort to ensure a fair vote is done, that tells me there is an effort to cheat. If there is no problem, then why would voter ID laws be a bad thing? After all, only legal voters are voting, right? And if the state is willing to pay for the ID cards, how is this a bad thing? So why is there such a battle against it? I guess that goes back to you…why are you fighting so hard against it? Why do you personally care?

funkdaddy's avatar

@seawulf575 – I’m not hard against it, it’s a waste of time and resources that could be used to address voting issues that actually matter. We put people in jail for voting incorrectly, while ignoring the manipulation of entire elections.

It’s a made up problem and a distraction from gerrymandering, low turnout, and wider issues.

seawulf575's avatar

@funkdaddy and that is where I disagree. I don’t view voter fraud and illegal voting as a made up problem. As I said, there are thousands of cases in almost every state where illegal voters are registered. It might be that they are not citizens, it might be that they died and have not been removed from the rosters, it might be that they moved and are registered in multiple states or locations. But it opens up the door for actually evaluating how many of these end up being illegal votes. But every action to do that…evaluate honestly…are fought tooth and nail. Again…if it is a non-issue, why fight it so hard? For the record, I don’t agree with gerrymandering either. My solution is to take each county as it exists right now and make that one voting district. Each county gets one electoral vote and there is no winner-take-all for electoral votes. Trying to draw imaginary voting districts that don’t line up to anything else is just as offensive to me. But even if you change the voting districts to something normal (i.e. counties), you still need to deal with the illegal voters or the strong possibility of illegal voters.
But this all moves away, again, from my original question. If Voter ID is such a bad thing and is called racist, isn’t it just as racist to have variable penalties for crimes depending on your wealth?

funkdaddy's avatar

But it opens up the door for actually evaluating how many of these end up being illegal votes. But every action to do that…evaluate honestly…are fought tooth and nail.

You’re making stuff up.

I’m not sure how voting works where you are, but here they ask my name and an ID, find me in a list for my polling place, and cross me off when I vote. They know who voted and who didn’t. Other states have rules to clean out their register. Here, our AG is real fired up about voter fraud, they even go after folks they think have committed any sort of fraud. Look at these three out of control voters.

Other states do too. It doesn’t add up to much

In 2012, the News21 investigative project headquartered at Arizona State University’s journalism school compiled a database that showed 104 Texas cases of alleged election fraud among 2,068 nationwide since 2000.


12 years turned up about 2000 cases of alleged fraud. That number includes actions against officials rather than voters. But all together we’re under 200 a year, in a nation of 200 million registered voters.

That’s a waste of time even the president had to acknowledge when shutting down his Voter Fraud Panel without releasing a single finding. (their site)

How much are you willing to spend on each of those illegal votes someone is chasing? Every study I’ve ever seen on voter fraud has trouble showing it’s a problem worth addressing.


For your original point, I think we’ve already discussed that rich and poor aren’t races, and Voter ID laws are often seen as racist because of a long history of tests, taxes, and needed paperwork to selectively suppress voting. That progress was hard fought.

Without a problem to solve, I’m sure you can understand people not forgetting, right?

seawulf575's avatar

@funkdaddy I live in a state where the battle against voter IDs have been strong. In fact, last election, the poll worker asked my name and checked a list, but I even offered my driver’s license and she almost panicked. They were told that not only could they not ask for ID, they had to refuse to look at it if offered. So basically I could have walked in and told them I was anyone in my district. I could have gone back later and told them I was someone else. There would be no way for them to prove I lied since they never verified what I told them was true.
You use Politifact as a source, but I always have a hard spot with them. They have no actual criteria for investigation. So they will form an opinion, then find enough data to support that and then put it out as fact. But there are many examples of illegal voters and illegal registrations. Here is an example of what I as talking about

This was an interesting story as well,

Here’s another couple of examples:

The list goes on an on. The problem is that in almost every one of these cases, the issue becomes extremely clear. The registrars are told to not ask for proof of citizenship and as such cannot be asked to prove the people are legal or not to vote. They leave the onus for the verification with the person registering. But you see the Catch 22 with that, right? You don’t have any way of actually proving that a person is legal or not to vote, so if they lie, there is really no way for them to be caught except for a person by person search of the entire system which would be a huge waste of time, if it could be done at all.
As for Trump’s investigation into voter fraud, you are missing a key piece there. Yes, he canceled the investigation, but it was canceled because of all the lack of cooperation from Democrat controlled states. They would not participate. Which really should raise another red flag. Here you have a federal government panel that is willing to do the actual cost and effort of doing the investigation and all the state has to do is provide information. But that is being battled? So in effect, you have state governments that don’t want to look too closely at whether the votes are fair or not. Might want to ask yourself why that is.

But all this STILL moves away from the question of why people would support penalties for crimes that vary based on the criminals wealth and status. That was the real point and I used the attitude towards Voter ID laws as the example.

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