LYNCHBURG, Va. – A bill sponsored by Lynchburg’s Delegate Wendell Walker will now increase the punishment for alerting police, fire, or emergency medical services personnel to false emergencies.
On Thursday, Walker was joined by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin for the official signing of the bill. The bill was signed in the gymnasium of E.C. Glass High School, a school that has seen multiple ‘swatting’ incidents this school year.
The same day the school went into a 7-hour lockdown, Walker was out in Richmond introducing his bill.
“So today, whether you’re aware of what’s transpired in the city of Lynchburg ... this is not the first time this year,” Walker said that day.
The bill came out of several conversations with the Lynchburg police chief, law enforcement, and local government, according to Walker.
Gov. Youngkin made his remarks on the bill at Thursday’s signing.
“These aren’t prank calls. This is a crime. The last thing we need to do is have our emergency responders showing up at schools and universities thinking that there is a real threat when there is not,” Youngkin said.
HB 1572 says, “Any person who knowingly reports, or causes another to report in reliance on intentionally false information provided by such person, a false emergency communication to any emergency personnel that results in an emergency response is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
A Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Walker also says there’s more of a price to pay now than before.
“That individual is financially responsible for all expenses occurred for all public safety responders to the incident there,” Walker said.
The bill also states any person who makes such a threat that results in any person suffering “serious bodily injury” would be guilty of a Class 6 felony, and any threat resulting in death would be punishable as a Class 5 felony.
Throughout the bill’s approval process, there was a lot of bi-partisan support for this particular bill. It unanimously passed in the Senate and almost unanimously passed in the House of Delegates.
“It gives one hope. We need more common sense in the room because we have a lot more work to get done in order to make Virginia even better,” Youngkin said.