Balloon Boy: Sorting out the Criminal Charges

You had to be living under a rock last week to avoid what has become known as the saga of “Balloon Boy.” What I’m most curious about is what exactly Larimer County’s lawyers will announce are the official criminal charges in the case.

According to CBC, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said Sunday that charges his department is recommending include conspiracy, making a false report to authorities, attempting to influence a public servant and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Some of those are felonies.

And what about federal charges? The Federal Aviation Administration is also conducting an investigation.

The Denver Post says the couple who allegedly orchestrated such a hoax faces up to six years in prison and a “seven figure fine.”

What makes this most interesting in my mind is how the couple will be prosecuted. Why? Because never before has an attorney in Colorado (let alone anywhere) been greeted with such a fact pattern.

All cases are unique. But somewhere in Colorado’s (and the United States’) criminal code, they’ll have to pick and choose laws they believe were violated (there is no “Pretending my kid’s in a UFO-like balloon so I’ll get the reality TV show I’ve always wanted” statute).

Constitutionally, they’ll have to find laws passed by lawmakers who could’ve never dreamed up what took flight over Colorado last week. And they’ll do it under the intense lens of the media. That, in my book, is a challenge.

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