CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New Article Spotlight: Anthrax Hoaxes

Robbins_iraCrimProf Ira Robbins of American has published Anthrax Hoaxes in the American University Law Review.  Here's the abstract: 

In the aftermath of 9/11, not only were there several deadly anthrax attacks, but there were also numerous anthrax hoaxes.  Some of these hoaxes resulted in serious jail time.  Early on, prosecutors attempted to stretch existing laws (e.g., false-reports and bomb-hoax statutes) to fit the facts of individual cases.  Some states have since enacted new laws designed to prosecute and deter anthrax hoaxes in particular.  Many of these laws, however -- enacted in the heat of the moment -- either omit or misinterpret important aspects of mens rea and actus reus, thus making the successful and fair prosecution of offenders a difficult task.

This article considers whether hoax legislation should be a state or federal matter, reviews federal and state statutes used to prosecuteanthrax hoax crimes before 9/11, analyzes legislation introduced in response to the attacks on 9/11, and recommends a model hoax crimes statute.  The article concludes with a recommendation that the federal government adopt a hoax crime statute that includes a mens rea requirement based on the mindset of the perpetrator and three distinct acti rei -- false reports, hoaxes, and terroristic threats -- with punishment tailored to the perpetrator's actual mens rea.  Regardless of whether the federal government adopts these laws, the states should employ statutes that are based on this formulation.

To obtain a copy of the paper, click here.  [Mark Godsey]

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