If it is true that the father, his wife, or both planned this as a publicity hoax I believe they should face not only criminal charges but also an investigation by the Colorado child protective services folks as well.
Charges expected in Colorado balloon case
(CNN) -- Authorities in Colorado say criminal charges are expected to be filed against Richard Heene, a storm-chasing father whose giant Mylar balloon ascended into the sky earlier this week, sparking fears that his 6-year-old was aboard.
"We do anticipate at some point in the future, there will be some criminal charges filed with regards to this incident," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said.
The saga captured the nation's attention early Thursday afternoon, after authorities reported the family's homemade helium balloon was set adrift, apparently with young Falcon Heene inside.
Since then, speculation has mounted over whether the incident was a hoax by the father, who has appeared with his family on ABC's "Wife Swap," and posted videos of storm chasing and other activities online.
Earlier Saturday, in an impromptu press conference outside his home, Heene told reporters the runaway balloon incident was "absolutely no hoax."
The incident prompted a widespread search in northern Colorado that included law enforcement from several counties, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Colorado National Guard.
It ended when Falcon climbed down from the attic above the garage at the family's Fort Collins, Colorado, home.
If the incident was a hoax, the only charge local authorities could press would be making a false report to authorities -- a Class 3 misdemeanor, Alderden told reporters Saturday.
However, a misdemeanor "hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances," the sheriff said.