Certain crimes that are destructive to property also carry significant risk of life and limb, and these violent crimes are prosecuted harshly under Oklahoma law. Arson, bombing, and terrorism are felony acts that carry decades in prison, and some are considered so egregious that the mere threat is a felony offense punishable by 10 years behind bars.
Arson is the deliberate setting of a fire, whether to land or a structure. In Oklahoma, intentionally set fires can quickly become raging wildfires when fueled by drought and high winds. Fires not only destroy property, but they put the lives of firefighters and residents at risk. They cost millions of dollars in property damage, and extensive fires cost millions of dollars to fight and contain.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, arson is the leading cause of property damage in the United States. The agency says that, in 2010, fire departments responded to more than 260,000 arson fires, which resulted in $1.2 billion in direct property damage and 390 deaths. Approximately 1,340 people were injured by intentionally set fires that year.
Oklahoma law classifies arson by severity, charging the crime in the first, second, third, or fourth degree:
In all cases, arson is a felony.
In most cases, bombing includes homemade incendiary devices such as Molotov cocktails or pipe bombs. However, as the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 indicate, bombing can be deadly, and the injuries sustained by survivors can be catastrophic.
In Oklahoma, both bombing and making a bomb threat are felony offenses that carry significant prison terms, including mandatory minimum sentences for even an empty threat of a bomb. Oklahoma law outlines nine specific prohibited acts and one exclusion in the bombing statute found in 21 O.S. 1767.1:
Violating this statute is a felony, but the penalty varies dependent on whether or not personal injury results from the bombing. If no injuries result, making a bomb threat or placing an explosive or incendiary device is punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison. If injury occurs as a result of the bombing, the offense is punishable by 7 years to life in prison.
On April 19, 1995, the "heartland" of America became home to unspeakable tragedy as a truck bomb ripped through the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, taking with it 168 lives and injuring more than 680 people in the nation's largest act of domestic terrorism.
In the Oklahoma Anti-terrorism Act, the state defines terrorism as an act of violence or an attempt to incite violence intended to "coerce a civilian population or government" into ceding the demands of the terrorist.
Terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism are felonies punishable by life in prison. Additionally, the responsible parties may be sentenced to restitution for the costs of emergency response and biochemical terrorism clean-up.
Because terrorism is intended to incite fear and create significant collateral damage, the mere threat of terrorism is enough to bring serious felony charges. Making a terrorist hoax or terrorist threat carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison as well as restitution for the costs associated with emergency response.
If you or someone you love is accused of a destructive crime such as arson, bombing, or terrorism, or if you are accused of making a bomb threat or terrorist threat, it is important that you do not speak to anyone except your attorney about your case. An admission to a bomb threat or terrorist hoax - even to say that you had no intention of actually carrying through with the threat - can land you in prison for up to 10 years. Assert your right to remain silent, insist upon your right to an attorney, and call (405) 608-4990 to speak to a lawyer.