Have you been arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat? This charge is about the threat of violence toward a person, a group of people, or property. An allegation of terroristic threat is about placing someone in fear of serious and imminent harm or disrupting a public function or public place. This charge can be either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. Although, terroristic threat can also be charged as a third degree felony. Because this charge criminalizes a threat, which is speech, the First Amendment is implicated. Freedom of speech is a very important right; arguably, it is our most important constitutional right. Freedom is Speech is the first Constitutional Right outlined in the Bill of Rights. There are some limits and speech is not absolute. The U.S. Supreme Court has created several exceptions to free speech. One of these exceptions is making imminent threats toward someone. A Person cannot simply go to a baseball game and yell “there’s a bomb!” That would cause and riot and would result in a terroristic threat charge. This criminal allegation can be a sort of catch-all—made when no other crime really fits. The statute on terroristic threat is located in Section 22.07 of the Texas Penal Code. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat, call me to discuss your charge. It is important to consult with and retain an attorney to develop a game plan and a strategy for attack. Here is the language of the statute from the Texas Penal Code:
Section 22.07. Terroristic Threat.
- A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:
- cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
- place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;
- cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
- place the public or substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
- influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state
- an offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class B misdemeanor
- an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a Class B misdemeanor, except it is a class A misdemeanor if the offense:
- is committed against a member of the person’s family household or otherwise constitutes family violence; or
- is committed against a public servant
- an offense under Subsection (a)(3) is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the actor causes pecuniary loss of $1,500 or more to the owner of the building, room, place, or conveyance, in which event the offense is a state jail felony.
- An offense under Subsection (a)(4), (a)(5), or (a)(6) is a felony of the third degree.
Misdemeanor Terroristic Threat
The terroristic threat statute has several moving parts to it. It is very important to state that for any terroristic threat charge (either felony or misdemeanor terroristic threat) you must threaten to commit an offense involving violence, either to a person or some property. The thrust of the legislation was designed to prevent people from disrupting public events by threat of violence to either people or to property. If you do make a threat of violence toward someone in an official capacity who reacts to your threat and you intended that reaction, you can be charged with an offense under (a)(1). This offense is a Class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors carry a potential range of punishment between 72 hours and six months and up to a $2,000 fine. The language of (a)(2) outlines the penalties for threatening a person with imminent serious bodily injury. The imminent component of this is essential, because if the threat is not imminent, the State begins to encroach on free speech and this is constitutionally impermissible. If you make a threat of imminent serious bodily injury against a family member or household member, that jumps the penalty to a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry a possible range of punishment of up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. Preventing someone from occupying a building or a car by threat of violence is also a Class A misdemeanor.
Felony Terroristic Threat
A terroristic threat can also be a state jail felony or a third degree felony. If a person’s threat of violence to people or property with intent to interrupt or impair a public utility such as gas lines, water supply, or any public communications or public transportation, that can be charged as a third degree felony. If there is an allegation that you threatened a substantial group of the public with violence, that can also be a third degree felony. What is a substantial group of the public? It is not defined in the statute, but should mean a group or a substantial quantity of the public. A third degree felony carries a possible range of punishment of between two and ten years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. This is just the potential range of punishment, or course, and what the possibilities may be in your case will depend on many different factors. Deferred adjudication probation is also possible. However, there are a number of ways to fight these charges, including getting a “Not Guilty” at a jury trial, getting your charge dismissed, or getting your charge reduced to a misdemeanor. If you are facing a charge of terroristic threat, call me to talk about it. I offer a free consultation and I am happy to discuss your case with you. I work in Tarrant, Dallas, Parker, and surrounding Counties.