Article 134 - Threat or Hoax Designed or Intended to Cause Panic or Public Fear
If a service member threatens to cause harm through an explosive, a chemical
or biological agent, weapon or substance, a weapon of mass destruction
or any hazardous material or if he perpetuates a hoax with the intention
of intimidating a service personnel, or to unlawfully destroy or damage
certain property, then he has violated Article 134 (paragraph 109). The
accused can be brought before a court martial and shall be punished.
Elements of the offense
- The accused had communicated language which could be construed as a threat.
- The accused threatened to do harm through an explosive, chemical or biological
agent, weapon or substance, weapon of mass destruction or any hazardous material.
- The communication conveyed by the accused was wrongful.
- The accused had conveyed or communicated certain information.
- The information conveyed or communicated was in relation to an attempt
that was being made or was to be made, through the use of an explosive,
chemical or biological agent, weapon or substance, weapon of mass destruction
or any hazardous material, to unlawfully intimidate, injure or kill a
person or destroy or cause damage to certain property.
- The information that the accused communicated was false and he knew that
the information was false.
- The conveying of the information by the accused was a malicious act.
In these circumstances, the accused's conduct was adverse to the discipline
and good order in the armed forces or the nature of the act could bring
discredit to the armed forces.
Explanation for the elements
Threat: A threat is defined as an intent or a present determination to injure,
intimidate or kill an individual or to destroy or damage certain property,
presently on in future. It is not necessary to provide proof that the
accused had an actual intention to injure, intimidate, kill an individual
or to destroy or damage property.
Explosive: Explosive refers to gunpowder, powders that are used for blasting purposes,
all kinds of high explosives, fuses (electrical circuit breakers not included),
blasting materials, detonators, detonating agents, explosive bombs, smokeless
powders, grenades, missiles or a similar device, or a incendiary bomb,
fire bomb, grenade or a similar device, or any explosive compound or mixture.
Biological agent: A biological agent is any microorganism (viruses, bacteria, protozoa,
fungi or rickettsiac), infectious substance or compound or any bio-engineered,
synthesized or natural component of a microorganism, infectious substance
or pathogen, however it was produced or whatever its origin, that can cause
- Disease, death or a biological malfunction in humans, animals, plants or
any other living organism.
- Deterioration of water, food, supplies, equipment, material or
- Deleterious alteration in the environment.
Malicious: A communication can be called malicious if the accused knew that the
information he communicated could interfere with the peaceful use of a
vehicle, aircraft, building or a property, or could cause one or more
persons to become fearful.
Maximum punishment for this offense
If the accused is held guilty, he can be punished with a dishonorable discharge,
forfeiture of allowances and pay and 10 years of confinement.
A scenario where a person was charged with perpetuating a hoax
In US v. Pugh, 28 MJ 71 (CMA 1989), the accused had placed a 'bomb'
near a ammunition depot (weapons storage) as a joke. The Court of Military
Appeals held that the accused had perpetuated a bomb hoax, violating the
provisions of Article 134 (paragraph 109).
In U.S vs Mayo, 12 MJ 286 (CMA 1982), the accused perpetuated a bomb hoax
through telephone. This led to the initiation of emergency action in the
target building, leading the residents to vacate it. As a result of the
hoax, emergency service agencies were also alerted and pushed into action.
The actions put the residents of the building to considerable inconvenience
and also led to government expenses. The accused's action was without
any justifiable reason and the act was held to be in violation of Article 134.