In the heat of the moment, emotions flair and words are often exchanged between people with little afterthought to what is being said. Sometimes, those words can land you in hot water. In the state of Pennsylvania, it is a serious criminal offense to make a terroristic threat, even if you weren’t aware that you were doing anything illegal. If you have been charged with terroristic threatening, you need to seek out the counsel of a terroristic threat charges attorney immediately to discuss your legal options.
What is a terroristic threat?
In Pennsylvania, a threat is a terroristic threat if the intent of the threat is to terrorize someone else or if results in the evacuation of a building, church, place of assembly, public transportation, or facility. It can also be a terroristic threat if it results in a serious public inconvenience. For example, if a person enters a place of business and announces to a group of people that he has a bomb in his bag, striking terror in those around him and causing them to run, then he has made a terroristic threat. This is true even if he doesn’t have a bomb. The key here is that he intended to scare the people in the business with the threat of the bomb, regardless of the fact that the bomb did not exist. Terroristic threats can be made in person, in via phone, over social media, or even via text message.
Another example is one that plays out all over the country among our schools. A student calls a prank threat to a school, warning of an upcoming school shooting. The student has no intention of shooting anyone, has no weapons, and is not privy to information about a potential shooting. Fortunately, these calls are often pranks masterminded by students looking for a few hours or a free day away from school. Nonetheless, the schools are forced to evacuate or call off classes because of the potential for the call to be legitimate. The student caller has committed the crime of terroristic threatening since the intent of his/her action was to terrorize students, faculty and staff with the threat of violence.
In Pennsylvania, making a terroristic threat is a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if the threat causes disruption in normal operations or a building evacuation, the charge may be enhanced to a third-degree felony, which is a very serious offense.