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Name: Levin v. United Airlines
Case #: B160939
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 01/10/2008

Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (a), which criminalizes the reporting of a bomb to specified persons, is a general intent crime that requires only that the report was made to the specified party with the knowledge that it was false. In this civil action, the trial court, applying rules of statutory construction, determined that section 148.1, subdivision (a) is a general intent crime, and that the reason the person related the information that there was a bomb placed and the effect the report had on the recipient were not elements of the offense. The words prohibited by the statute are similar to a false cry of “fire” in a crowded theater and, as such, have no constitutional protection. After missing her United Airlines flight because of an over-sized luggage problem, crowded check-in line, and change in terminal, the frustrated plaintiff made a sarcastic remark to police that there was a bomb in her luggage. She was arrested but never charged with the offense. In her subsequent action for damages, the court disagreed with her interpretation of section 148.1, subdivision (a) and instructed the jury that the police had probable cause to arrest because the evidence showed that plaintiff made the statement to the police knowing it to be false. The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed the finding against plaintiff.