False Threat at Texas Colleges Now State Felony
Making a false threat at any Texas higher education institution is now considered a state jail felony, not a Class A misdemeanor, according to a new law passed this summer by the Texas Legislature. House Bill 1284 was enacted in response to several threats this past year at several universities across the United States that disrupted classes and prompted evacuation of campus property, even though each report turned out to be a hoax.
The Texas bill relates to the offense of making or causing a false alarm or report involving a public or private institution of higher education. A person commits an offense under Section 42.06, Texas Penal Code, if he or she knowingly initiates, communicates or circulates a report of a present, past, or future bombing, fire, offense, or other emergency that he or she knows is false or baseless and that would ordinarily:
- Cause action by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
- Place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
- 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.
An individual adjudged guilty of a state jail felony shall be punished by confinement in a state jail for any term of not more than two years or less than 180 days and, in addition to confinement, may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The UST community should be aware that the State of Texas takes these threats seriously, and the legal consequences, which are severe, go beyond anything that the University’s disciplinary committee can address.