Like other states, New Jersey makes it illegal to threaten to harm or kill someone else. The crime is called terroristic threats and is found in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3. It doesn’t matter whether the defendant actually goes through with the threat and causes physical injury. The threatening communication is enough to be charged and possibly convicted.
In today’s world, we tend to see many people getting into fights online, especially through social media. It is possible that your threatening conduct could draw the attention of the police. While some may say these threats are merely jokes taken out of context by those offended, law enforcement to take this type of language and behavior seriously. If you are arrested, please contact our New Jersey criminal defense attorney, Matthew V. Portella, today to review the charges against you and possible defenses.
How Does New Jersey Define Terroristic Threats?
The terroristic threats statute criminalizes the following:
- Threatening to commit a violent crime with the purpose of causing terror in another person or causing inconvenience or a place to be evacuated. (Section 2C:12-3a)
- Threatening to commit any crime of violence in reckless disregard of whether the threat would cause terror or inconvenience. (Section 2C:12-3a).
- Threatening to kill another person with the purpose of causing imminent fear of death in the victim, so long as the victim reasonably believes the threat is immediate and likely to be followed through on. (Section 2C:12-3b)
What Are Examples of Terroristic Threats?
Here are some common situations where a person could be charged with terroristic threats:
- Calling a former significant other and threatening to harm, kill, or sexually assault them.
- Calling in a bomb threat to a school and causing it to be evacuated.
- Pulling out a knife and yelling “I’m going to kill you!” in the middle of a fight.
- Leaving threatening messages with promises to physically harm someone.
- Threatening another with a firearm or other deadly weapon.
What Are the Penalties for Making Terroristic Threats?
Generally, making terroristic threats is a crime of the third degree. In New Jersey, this means that you could potentially be incarcerated for 3-5 years and fined up to $15,000. You will also have a felony conviction on your record. This conviction could result in you losing civil rights, like the right to possess a firearm or vote in an election.
Terroristic threats can be a crime of the second degree if you threaten to kill someone which puts that person in fear that you’ll actually do it or if you made the threat during a declared public emergency. The defendant doesn’t have to know an emergency has been declared to get this
upgrade. If convicted of a crime of the second degree, you face 5-10 years in prison and a maximum $150,000 fine. You likewise will have a felony on your record.
Can An Attorney Defend Me Against These Charges?
With every case being unique, our lawyer will need to review the surrounding facts and circumstances to craft the best defense. Some arguments our New Jersey criminal defense attorney can raise:
- The words used did not qualify as a threat. If you didn’t threaten to commit violence, you can’t be convicted of terroristic threats. You might have been angry or shouting, but no words came out of your mouth that constituted a threat. Unless the statement is in writing or stored electronically, the state might have a hard time proving you ever made it.
- No fear intended. You might have made a joke that other people in the room interpreted as such. If one person felt terrorized, that might show they were unreasonable in how they interpreted your words. Our attorney can present that evidence in court as an important context for interpreting what you said.
- No ability to follow through. When it comes to threats to kill, we can also argue you had no means of actually following through on the threat. For example, you might have tweeted a threat to kill someone. However, your victim lives hundreds of miles away. No victim could reasonably believe you would imminently kill them if you live halfway across the country from them.
- Mistaken identity. Someone might have made a threat, but they could have impersonated you by hacking your social media. Or the victim thought you said something which you didn’t. In these situations, the police might have mistakenly arrested you for threats you never made.
These are some of the defenses which can be raised. Remember that the prosecution always carries the burden of proving all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Contact Our New Jersey Terroristic Threats Attorney for More Information
The Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC can represent anyone facing charges for terroristic threats. An off-hand comment or gesture shouldn’t land you in prison for years. Please call our firm today to schedule a consultation. We will defend you against terroristic threat charges and seek a dismissal or reduction of charges.