State College Terroristic Threats Attorney
People are not permitted to threaten others with death. In Pennsylvania, the actual Terroristic Threats law at 18 Pa.C.S.A. 2706 prohibits a person from threatening another person with a crime of violence with the intent to terrorize another person. The threat can be communicated either:
- Directly – verbal communication directly to the person – “I am going to kill you”
- Indirectly and nonverbal – a threat through actions, 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, through writings, or through electronic means like emails and texts.
Spur-of-the-Moment Statement is Not Sufficient
Pennsylvania courts have recognized that some spur-of-the-moment or threats may NOT be terroristic threats because statement are not made with the intent to terrorize another person. The “spur-of-the-moment” defense is discussed in the case of Commonwealth v. Anneski 525 A.2d 373 (Pa. Super. 1987). In the case, Anneski and a neighbor were arguing with one another over Anneski’s children walking in the roadway. The neighbor advised Anneski that she run over the Anneski children if they didn’t get off the road, and Anneski responded that she would retrieve a gun and use it. Anneski was charged and convicted of Terroristic Threats. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the Anneski clearly threatened her neighbor, but, because the threat was made during a heated, possibly hysterical argument, the threat was not made with the intent to terrorize. The court reversed the woman’s conviction.
This does NOT mean that any threat that was made in anger cannot be a Terroristic Threat. To contrary, almost all threats are made by people that are angry, so being angry is NOT an excuse or a defense to a Terroristic Threats charge. The key issue in Anneski was that the threat were being made by both sides and were made in response to one another, so the people may have said things that they did not necessarily mean or made with the intent to terrorize. And, it is important to note that a spur-of-the-moment defense is something that must normally be made a trial, and a jury then determines whether or not the person is guilty. The spur-of-the-moment issue often does NOT prevent a police officer from filing a Terroristic Threats charge.
Ability or Inability to Carry Out the Threat is Not a Defense
A person’s ability to carry out the threat does not matter. In one Pennsylvania case, a man was handcuffed and being transported by the police when he threatened to “hunt down” the officers. The Court upheld the man’s conviction for Terroristic Threats in finding that the man had the intent to terrorize the police when the threat was made. The fact that the man was handcuffed and unable to carry out the threat was not a defense.
A Terroristic Threat Is A Serious Charge With Serious Penalties
Generally, a charge of terroristic threats is a first-degree misdemeanor, which means that it is punishable by up to five years’ incarceration and a $10,000 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 is 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.