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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

1. Threat

  • 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.

2. Hoax

  • 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 an 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 an 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.

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