The Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act

California legislators recognised the need to combat terroristic threats, more specifically those where biological, nuclear, WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), radio-logical and chemical agents could be used in perpetrating such actions. As these weapons could place Californians in great peril, Governor Gray Davis signed the Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act on September 28, 1999.

With specific punishments that include automatic life in prison, it is important to familiarise yourself with HACPTA, its sanctions, and what penalties could be imposed for merely “pretending” to have the capacity to wipe out an entire state.

Specifics Addressed in This Act

According to California legislature, manufacturing, possessing, threatening to use, or transferring various gas, nerve, or explosive agents designed to cause injury or death to mass groups of people is an offence punishable with up to nine years in state prison. Those who have been previously convicted may serve up to 15 years in prison.

Persons possessing biological agents such as bacillus anthracis (anthrax), rickettsia, coccidioides immitis, South African hemorrhagic fever viruses, and toxins like diacetoxyscirpenol may be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 years, or both. This includes the deliberate use or threatened use of commercial or industrial chemicals as weapons against animals or humans, and specific attacks that cause damage to food, crops, and seeds.

Those who successfully deploy these weapons against persons shall be punished by life in prison; if those weapons cause death to one or more persons, the sentence is enhanced to life without parole.

Emailing or faxing plans for weapons of mass destruction is punishable up to one year, but is enhanced to two years if receiving such plans induces fear.

Why Punishments are so Harsh

Terrorist threats have divided not only California, but our nation, since the events that transpired during 9/11. Even with heightened airport security and tougher immigration laws, terrorists are not only attempting to destroy us from the outside, but from within.

To help curb these crimes, the Act makes possessing, using, and selling these weapons both a state felony and quite possibly a federal charge if done on government property or if agents are launched at government properties from afar.

Defenses to Crimes Under this Act

As with all crimes, criminal defense attorneys will raise numerous meritorious defenses in their clients’ cases. Prosecutors must prove, beyond a doubt, that possession of such weapons was for the sole purpose of causing mass destruction, to induce fear, to embezzle, or to perform other criminal acts.

Defense attorneys will note that their client:

  • Did not know the agent was on a banned substance list;
  • Had no intention to email or transmit via facsimile plans to create such weapons;
  • Lived with a person who actually possessed these items; and
  • Was nowhere near the weapon when it launched.

Successful defenses may dismiss charges or lessen them to misdemeanors. Material evidence and witnesses will be cross-examined to discredit potentially false or misleading information presented by the state.

Terrorist threats are serious charges in California, punishable by death in some scenarios. If under investigation for possessing or using weapons with banned substances, contact James E. Blatt immediately.