What Qualifies as a “Terrorism” Threat?
When most people hear the word “terrorism threat,” they immediately think of suicide bombings, mass shootings, or large-scale attacks that occur in other countries. Surprisingly, the legal definition of this term refers to far less dramatic acts, and a conviction can lead to very significant penalties. It is essential that you understand the definition of this crime and when a threat becomes one of terrorism.
How Terrorism Threats are Defined
Each state will have its own legal definition of terroristic threats; however, California defines the act through the California Penal Code 422, and it can be used in conjunction with criminal threats. The definition is a long one, but in simpler, paraphrased terms, a terrorism threat is the crime of threatening to commit a crime against a person or group of people that will result in death or serious bodily injury.
The threat may be made verbally, such as in a phone call or in person, in writing, or through electronic communication such as an email or text message. The person who receives the threat must suffer a reasonably sustained level of fear, the threat must be intentional, and there must be a clear willingness to carry the threat out. That being said, it does not matter if the threat is acted upon or if you even have the capability of carrying it out. The threat itself is an offense that can be prosecuted.
Examples of Terrorism Threats
The difference between a regular threat and a terrorism threat is that a terrorism threat must meet all of the elements as described in the law. The requirements include great bodily harm and a clear intention to carry the threat out. A normal threat may simply be one co-worker threatening to punch another for eating their lunch. While that is certainly a threat of violence, it does not involve great bodily harm, and, if said in a joking manner, there may not be any clear indication that the threat was actually going to be carried out.
Some common examples of terrorist threats include:
- A bomb threat to a school or office building
- Threatening to kill someone when you are out of jail
- Threatening the safety of another’s family if a debt is not paid
- Threatening to shoot someone while you are holding a weapon
- Sending a message to your ex that you are going to set fire to their car
For a threat to be classified as a terrorism threat, there must be a specific threat of imminent criminal violence. Remember, the threat does not have to be carried out in order for it to be a crime. Even if you meant it in jest or were simply acting in the heat of the moment, you could still be facing serious penalties. Considering America’s history with terroristic acts, threats are not something that the California criminal justice system takes lightly.
Penalties for Terrorism Threats
In California, a threat of terrorism is considered a “wobbler” crime, as in it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. You may face a misdemeanor charge if the threat was considered minor and if you do not have a criminal record. With a misdemeanor conviction, your punishment could include:
- Up to a year in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
On the other hand, you may be charged with a felony if you have a criminal past and the threat was an extreme one. For example, if you have a history of making false bomb threats, then you may end up facing a felony charge. On top of that, if a deadly or dangerous weapon was used in the threat, then you will likely be convicted of a felony. Upon conviction, you may be punished with:
- Up to four years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
If you have been charged with a terrorism threat, you need legal help at once. Contact a skilled Los Angeles violent crime defense attorney at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP. Our talented, veteran trial attorneys have years of experience defending clients charged with serious and violent crimes, and we are passionate about protecting the rights of our clients. The United States Constitution states that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and we have dedicated our careers to protecting that right. For effective, skilled legal defense, call us today at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a consultation. We are here to help.