If you’re thinking of playing a Covid-19 April fools day joke, do yourself a favor and don’t follow through with your plan. Not only is Covid-19 no laughing matter, but making false claims that you are a carrier of Covid-19 could cost your criminal background,  bank account and your future dearly.

Have People Been Charged with Terroristic Threats While Joking About Covid-19?

On March 25, 2020 a woman in Hanover, PA entered a local grocery store and acted erratically while coughing, spitting and attempting to steal a twelve pack of beer. The woman, Margaret Cirko, was arrested that day and charged with terroristic threats the following day.

Terroristic threats carry hefty penalties. Cirko was arrested and charged with two different counts of terroristic threats. One of the charges is for use of a “biological agent” and the other felony count pertains to criminal mischief. The suspect also faces misdemeanor counts for the attempted beer theft along with disorderly conduct. 

Not only was Margaret charged with terroristic threats, but the victimized grocery store was forced to throw away an estimated $35,000 worth of food. With many Americans concerned about supply chain disruption and, plenty of grocery stores running out of food and hygiene supplies, this “joke” caused unnecessary, avoidable waste.

What Penalties Do Terroristic Threats Carry?

Just like the sound of the charge, terroristic threats can carry severe maximum penalties. According to Jason Dunkle, a State College terroristic threats attorney, terroristic threats are punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to five years of incarceration. However, if the terroristic threat causes the patrons or employees of an occupied space to be diverted from their normal customary operations then the charge is increased to a felony. Since Margaret Cirko caused many grocery store employees to divert their attention to disposing of food and sanitizing impacted areas she was charged with a felony.

In instances of felony terroristic threats, a conviction can result in up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000. If convicted of felony terroristic threats, you may also be forced to pay restitution in the amount equal to the cost of evacuations, first responders response and the transport of any person from the origin of the threat to a safe location. 

Those are the short term penalties that terroristic threats carry. If convicted of a crime of this severity, it may also be incredibly difficult to obtain a job. Felony convictions will appear on background checks and many employers are less willing to hire felons compared to a counterpart without a felony conviction. Exceptions are made, but terroristic threats during a time of pandemic is not appealing to any level headed employer. 

Additionally, the US Department of Justice has decided that coranvirus crimes can be charged as acts of terrorism. The DOJ has alerted federal prosecutors that charges against individuals that intentionally spread or joke about the spread of Covid-19 can be prosecuted. 

What Are Good April Fools Jokes?

Pick a prank that doesn’t cause panic or instill fear to a global population. If you do decide to perform an April fools joke, always error on the side of caution. Ask yourself this question “Would the majority of people find this April fools joke funny”, if you’re unsure or think the answer is no then avoid the April fools joke.

Tens of millions of people in the United States are on edge during these times, and jokes can instill and make difficult times easier to deal with. However, be sure that you pick suitable April fools jokes. Jokes that involve the potential of death can be viewed as terroristic threats and put your future in jeopardy.  Help keep America safer and avoid Covid-19 April fools jokes.

In times of uncertainty so called “pranks” that cause wastefulness and a reallocation of resources for a limited labor force are not funny. If you are planning or considering performing an April fools joke, please take the high road and avoid joking about deadly pandemics.