Terroristic threats may conjure images of foreign enemies threatening our country. Despite this stereotype, terrorist threats are more commonly found in less dramatic settings. A threat during domestic disputes, the jabbering of a raging drunk, or the harsh words of a jilted suitor bitter with rejection, may all qualify as a terrorist threat.
To constitute a terroristic threat in New Jersey, an offender must have committed the following:
- threatened a crime of violence;
- made the threat purposely;
- the purpose of the threat was to cause the evacuation of a building, place of public transportation, or to cause public inconvenience.
- posed a threat that presented an imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonable causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood it would be carried out.
Examples of Terrorist Threats
A threat to kidnap a child may constitute a terrorist threat if the guardian genuinely is alarmed. Other examples include bomb or other threats or warnings of imminent danger, false or valid, regardless of intention or location.
Recently, the internet has served as fertile ground for terrorist threats, also referred to as cyber terrorism or bullying. The anonymity of the internet has caused a proliferation of these types of terrorist threats.
Minors can also be charged. Harassing younger children by threatening them with death or bodily harm constitutes a terrorist threat. Depending on the age of the minor and the severity of the offense, they can be charged as adults.
Threats can be communicated by letter as well as email. These threats are chargeable as long as the victim reasonably believes the threat is real and that the person is capable of carrying out the threat.
By default, a terrorist threat constitutes a crime of the third degree in New Jersey with a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
It is a crime of the second degree if the threat occurs during a time of declared county, state or national emergency, regardless of whether the offender was aware of it or not. A second degree crime carries a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison.
Many threats can be negated by claiming the act either could not be perceived by the supposed victim as credible or could not be reasonably carried out by the offender. For example, an angry spouse involved in a bitter custody dispute may blurt out a threat that any reasonable person would know is not genuine. Nevertheless the threat is brought to court to impugn the “offender’s” character in the custody battle. A skilled defense attorney could bring to light the circumstances that can lead to an acquittal, dismissal or downgrading of the charges.
The same may be true for angry boyfriends who have no previous history of violence, but who may be engaged in stalking their former girl or boy friend and have become incensed by a lack of response or attention.
A parent might view a bully who is harassing their child as expressing terrorist threats, but the child accused of bullying may not be capable of carrying out the threat or a reasonable victim would see the threats were empty.
There can be significant complexities to the charges, legalities and defenses involved in terrorist threat cases. Only a skilled criminal defense attorney can use the facts of a case to effectively assert a defense on behalf of a person accused of such crimes.
Anyone arrested on a criminal charge should immediately inform the police officer or investigator that they will not make any statements and wish to speak with an attorney.
Also, do not attempt to contact the person whom you are charged with threatening, as this could lead to additional charges and/or an increase in the amount of your bail.
Terroristic threats are crimes, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer can present compelling evidence in an effort to mitigate any sentence or charge by showing a prior relationship, lack of credible threat, or inability to carry out the threat. This can result in a dismissal, probation, or an alternate resolution that may lead to a dismissal.
Obtaining the advice and service of a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in defending alleged terrorists in such circumstances is vital. Crimes can permanently remain on a convicted person’s record. A person already on parole can be sent back to prison to serve out their original sentence as well as one for the new conviction. Employment prospects, travel plans, and your ability to obtain credit, insurance or a professional license can all be jeopardized in case of a conviction.
Don’t fool around! If you have been charged with terroristic threats we want to hear from you.