Jumping season on Boise bridges
Serious criminal charges could await the boy or man police say jumped off the Baybrook Bridge over the Boise River on Sunday, injuring a 19-year-old woman who was floating in the river, said David Leroy, a Boise attorney, former Idaho attorney general and former Ada County prosecutor.
To begin with, Boise law forbids jumping within 50 feet of any floater. But violations of that law are infractions — the least serious type of criminal offense. The maximum penalty is a $100 fine.
More serious penalties, including jail or prison time, come into play when someone gets hurt.
Idaho law defines battery as, among other things, “actual, intentional and unlawful touching or striking of another person against the will of the other.” Asked by the Statesman about possible penalties, Leroy said that definition likely would apply to a person who intentionally — and illegally — jumped off a bridge and injured someone below, even if he didn’t mean to hurt the victim.
The maximum punishment for battery, a misdemeanor, is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. But Leroy believes the situation could qualify for a felony: aggravated battery, or causing “great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement.” That carries much more severe consequences: a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
“It may be an infraction to jump, but it’s potentially a felony to land,” Leroy said.
The question is, what constitutes “great bodily harm”? The woman who was injured Sunday was hospitalized but has since been released, a Saint Alphonsus spokesman confirmed Wednesday. An online fundraiser claimed she suffered “severe bruising to her organs” and internal bleeding.
“Prosecutors can be pretty aggressive about that,” Leroy said. “I don’t think the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office would have any difficulty concluding that significant internal bleeding and hospitalization constitutes ‘great bodily harm.’ ”
Police and prosecutors aren’t commenting yet on any possible charges.
Of course, maximum penalties are rare. Judges almost always sentence convicts to less severe punishments.
Besides, the jumper can’t be charged if he isn’t caught. Boise police officers have received tips on this suspect’s identity, but they haven’t found him, spokeswoman Haley Williams said Wednesday. It’s also unclear if the suspect is a minor — another factor that could figure into his punishment.
In response to Sunday’s jumping incident, the Boise Police Department is increasing officer presence at Baybrook Bridge, located about a half-mile upstream of the West ParkCenter Bridge, and the floater takeout in Ann Morrison Park, Williams said. Volunteers who patrol the Greenbelt and communicate directly with law enforcement authorities also will pay closer attention to Baybrook Bridge, she said.
These incidents are fairly infrequent, she said. Officers might issue one ticket a summer for violating the city’s jumping law and respond to a few calls every year stemming from concerns about or for jumpers, she said.
“If they see it, they are going to do something about it,” Williams said. “They’re either going to decide that that is a time for education or is a time for enforcement.”
Jumping-related injuries are uncommon. A 17-year-old jumper was arrested after landing on a 4-year-old girl in 2010, according to Statesman archives, but it’s unclear what he was charged with. (Bridge jumping at the time was a misdemeanor, later adjusted to allow police to write tickets on the spot and send fewer minors through the juvenile court system.) Williams said she’s never heard of a bridge jump killing someone.
“We do want to warn people that it’s dangerous jumping off of those bridges and that they need to be looking out for people below, and understand that the river is moving faster than they probably anticipate,” she said.