A Pennsylvania charge of Terroristic Threats, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2706, prohibits a person from communicating a threat to commit a crime of violence with the intent to terrorize another. The communication of the threat can be direct, such as a verbal threat to killsomeone, or it can be indirect and non-verbal such as pointing a gun at a person's head. In either situation, there is sufficient evidence to show that the person communicated a threat with the intent to terrorize. Communications can also be made in person, by written or electronic means, including telephone, electronic mail, Internet, facsimile, telex and similar transmissions.
Spur of the Moment Statement Not Sufficient
Pennsylvania courts have recognized that some spur of the moment or threatening communications may not constitute Terroristic Threats as they are not made with the intent to terrorize another person. The classic example of a spur-of-the-moment statement stems from Commonwealth v. Anneski. In that case, a woman was told by a neighbor that the neighbor would run into the woman's children, and, in response, the woman threatened to get a gun and use it. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the woman's threat was made during a heated, possibly hysterical argument and thereby not made with the intent to terrorize, so the Court reversed the woman's conviction of Terroristic Threats.
Ability to Carry Out Threat Not a Defense
A person's present ability to actually cause the harm threatened is not an element of the charge. A Pennsylvania court upheld the conviction of a man for Terroristic Threats after he threatened to "hunt down" police officers while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car and was being transported to the police station. The focus of the charge is on the communication of a threat and with the intent to terrorize, so neither the inability to carry out the threat nor a disbelief by the person threatened that the threat will be carried out is a defense to the Terroristic Threats charge.
Generally, a charge of Terroristic Threats is a first degree misdemeanor, which means that is it punishable by up to 5 years incarceration and a $10,000.00 fine. If the threat causes the occupants of a building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation to be diverted from their normal or customary operations, then the severity of the charge is increased to a felony of the third degree. A conviction of the charge would also result in the imposition of collateral consequences, such as a lifetime prohibition on the possession of a firearm under Federal law.
If you or a loved one are charged with Terroristic Threats or any other criminal offense, contact State College defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle at 814-954-7622 or via email for a free consultation.