While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does state that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holme’s opinion in Schenck v. U.S. (1919) established that not all speech is protected. It is from this case that the paraphrased “shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic” line emerged, representing an example of some forms of speech that are not Constitutionally protected, including those which cause dangers that the government has an interest in preventing.
Another form of unprotected speech involves making a false report about a bomb or other explosive or weapon of mass destruction, a crime outlined in s. 790.163 of the Florida State Statutes. According to the statute, it is against the law to make a false report, with the intent to deceive, mislead, or otherwise misinform any person, concerning the placing or planting of any bomb, dynamite, other deadly explosive, or weapon of mass destruction (defined in s. 790.166). Committing the crime described above is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.
The law goes on to say that — notwithstanding any other law — the adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for a violation of this section (s. 790.163) may not be suspended, deferred or withheld. That said, given our experience as former prosecutors, our Ft Lauderdale false report of a bomb lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know that state attorneys (prosecutors) may move the sentencing court to reduce or suspend the sentence of any person who is convicted of a violation of this section and who provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any of his or her accomplices, accessories, coconspirators, or principals.
As our Ft Lauderdale false report of a bomb attorneys know, proof that someone is accused of violating this section knowingly made a false report is prima facie (apparent) evidence of the accused person’s intent to deceive, mislead, or otherwise misinform any person. Furthermore, in addition to any other penalty provided by law with respect to anyone who is convicted of a violation of this section that resulted in the mobilization or action of any law enforcement officer or any state or local agency, a person convicted of a violation of this section may be required by the court to pay restitution for all of the costs and damages arising from the criminal conduct.
In defending these types of cases, our Ft Lauderdale false report of a bomb lawyers know that it’s important to stress the burden on the prosecution – they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally, deceptively made a false report about a bomb. The fact is that merely uttering a false statement is not evidence of intent to mislead – getting something wrong doesn’t mean you were lying; it could mean that you were misinformed and just passing on information that you believed to be correct.