A federal grand jury indicted 27-year-old Chatham County man after he allegedly made false bomb threats targeting a Savannah mosque and an office park.
According to court documents, the man conveyed information that a bomb that would detonate at 3 p.m. at an office park on Chatham Parkway in Savannah, near the federal court building, and that a bomb would detonate seven minutes before Maghrib, or afternoon prayers, inside the Islamic Center of Savannah.
Responding law enforcement agencies determined both warnings were hoaxes.
State vs. Federal Court
Generally, these two forums are roughly the same. Procedure and legal research might be the two biggest differences.
Procedure matters, and not just for a Marietta criminal defense lawyer. Courtroom decorum is like meal presentation. If a dish looks good, it usually tastes good. Likewise, if lawyers observe all decorum rules, their arguments “taste better” to judges.
Usually, courts have written and unwritten procedural rules. Written rules are rather easy to find and follow. Unwritten rules are different. Usually, attorneys don’t know the rules, and the consequences of violating those rules, until it’s too late.
As mentioned, procedure matters for clients as well, even in little things. For example, some judges like for clients to wait in the hall. If you draw such a judge and you wait in the gallery, the judge is already in a bad mood when s/he calls the case. Federal judges in bad moods do bad things. Unlike state court judges, federal judges have lifetime appointments. They don’t need to win friends and influence people to stay on the bench.
Legal research in federal court is more complex as well. Federal criminal laws and procedural rules aren’t centralized in a penal or procedural code. Instead, they’re scattered throughout federal laws. The laws and rules are often contradictory.
Bomb Hoax/Terroristic Threat
These infractions, and others like them, increased significantly during 2022. Therefore, police and prosecutors are very aggressive, and sometimes overly aggressive, in these areas.
Generally, people commit terroristic threat if they credibly threaten many people at the same time. Before 2022, investigators often didn’t pursue these matters, on the grounds that the threat wasn’t credible, or the group wasn’t large enough. Now, as far as law enforcement investigators are concerned, almost any threat is credible and any group larger than two or three people is big enough.
Terroristic threat targets could be individuals as well. It’s illegal to shoot or throw objects at vehicles and burn crosses or other such symbols, if the defendant intended to terrorize an individual or group.
Investigators have so much technology at their fingertips that they can easily identify a computer IP address, even if the suspect uses a VPN. Until recently, the account-hacking defense hardly ever worked. But social media hacks have increased 1,000 percent since 2021. If the defendant doesn’t admit in court to making the post, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can use this statistic to create reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s identity.
If the defendant admitted making the post during a previous interrogation, that answer may be inadmissible under the Fifth Amendment. People have a right to remain silent as soon as custodial interrogation begins, even if they aren’t under arrest.
Normally, terroristic threat is a misdemeanor. In some cases, mostly retaliatory terrorist threats against individuals, it could be a felony.
Possessing a Fake Device
Section 16-7-85 infractions have gone through the roof lately. For some reason, many people think it’s not illegal, or at least not seriously illegal, to threaten people with a realistic-looking fake hand grenade, road flares, or other mock destructive device. But this offense is a misdemeanor and, if the defendant has “the intent to obtain the property of another person or to interfere with the ability of another person to conduct or carry on the ordinary course of business, trade, education, or government,” a felony.
Mere possession is a crime. Prosecutors don’t have to prove use or presentation. However, it’s very difficult to establish the intent element in simple possession cases.
Additionally, possessing a fake device, like all other possession cases, often involves procedural defenses, specifically a defective or missing search warrant.
Frequently, Bill shows a fake bomb to Mike, and Mike narcs on Bill. Mike’s uncorroborated testimony is unreliable, whether or not his testimony was accurate. Search warrants stand or fall on their own based on information available at the time, not on information that becomes available later.
Owner consent is a search warrant exception. So, if Mike talks to investigators, they may go to Bill’s house and ask permission to search it. Usually, “consent” is more like “assent” in these situations. If menacing-looking police officers come to the door and ask for permission to search the house, most people don’t feel like they can say no.
An unlawful request for emergency services assistance, the offense formerly known as transmitting a false alarm, is an intentionally false 911 call, as opposed to a mistaken, exaggerated, or misleading call, that pertains to a:
- Hazardous substance,
- Deadly weapon, or
- Threat or act of serious physical violence.
Alternatively, these charges could hold up in court if the defendant uses any electronic device or software to alter, conceal, disguise, or attempt to alter, conceal or disguise, the identity or location of the person making the request, regardless of the call’s content.
Once again, Section 16-10-28 is a misdemeanor unless the fake threat caused a serious or fatal injury. Indirect injuries (e.g. a squad car hit a pedestrian en route to the call) are in a gray area.
Frequently, police officers record interrogations and use that recording to match voices in these cases. So, be very careful what you say and how you say it.
Fake threats are serious offenses in Georgia. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.