Terroristic Threats: What They Are and How Texas Treats Them
- October 5, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on Terroristic Threats: What They Are and How Texas Treats Them
Explaining Terroristic Threats in Texas
In recent years, concerns over dangerous acts of terrorism have grown at a rapid rate. Nowadays, it’s common for the news reports to feature major stories of deadly terrorist attacks in Texas and around the world. These attacks often take the form of shootings, stabbings or bombings.
In response to these events, Texas has created laws regarding terroristic threats. Despite the name of this law, it does not only apply to acts of violence carried out by extremists. In fact, this law can be applied to Texas citizens who may not be affiliated with any type of extremist group. Read on to find out the truth about terroristic threats in Texas and how the judicial system handles them.
What Are Terroristic Threats?
In Texas, it is against the law to threaten another person with violence in such a way as to place them in fear for their safety or their life. Such actions are classified as assault in this state.
For example, Mark approaches his neighbor Mary and demands that she turn down her loud music. Mark tells Mary that he will choke her and she is placed in fear for her safety. Mark has committed assault, even though he never actually touched anyone, because he intentionally issued a credible threat that made another person fear for their safety.
Terroristic threats are similar in their content but different in their scope.
Terrorist Threats vs. Simple Threats
Section 22.07 of the Texas Penal Code describes terrorist threats a any type of threat of violence against a person or institution with intent to:
- Cause a reaction by emergency services
- Place a person in fear of serious bodily injury
- Prevent or interrupt the use of a building, facility or meeting area
- Impair public transportation or communications
- Place the public in fear for their safety
- Influence the activities of the federal, state or local governments
As you can see, terrorist threats are different from standard threats because they are either intended to cause widespread fear or disruption or cause a specific person to fear serious bodily injury or death.
Consider this example. Joseph knows that there is a meeting at city hall to decide on a new tax law that he doesn’t like. He calls in a bomb threat to the meeting and the entire building is evacuated, causing the meeting to be disrupted, placing the public in fear and interfering with the actions of the local city government. Joseph has made a terrorist threat because his threat of violence caused a substantial disruption of several major groups and made people fear for their safety.
In another example, Joseph calls a city councilman directly. He tell the councilman he will shoot him to death and lists the councilman’s address and office location. The councilman is placed into fear of serious bodily injury and death because Joseph threatened to actually shoot him. This is more serious than a simple assault threat because it involves the fear of serious bodily injury, even if the public at large wasn’t threatened or disrupted.
How Texas Prosecutes Terrorist Threats
In order to prosecute and convict a person of a terroristic threat charge, the state will have to prove that:
- The person charged with the offense knowingly and intentionally issued the threat
- The person issued the threat with the specific intent to cause disruption or cause fear of serious injury
The prosecution can use several types of evidence to support their charges. For example, from the scenario described above, the prosecution could use phone recordings and records from the phone company to show that Joseph was the person who made the bomb threat call to the city council meeting.
They might also introduce evidence of posts that Joseph made online expressing his anger at the new ordinance. This could show that Joseph had intent to disrupt the meeting. Finally, the prosecution could claim that Joseph intended to disrupt the meeting because a reasonable person would know that a bomb threat would cause the building to be evacuated.
If the jury is convinced, Joseph could be convicted of making a terrorist threat.
In the state of Texas, issuing a terroristic threat is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000
If the prosecution can show that the crime was committed against a family member or public servant, the charge can be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $4000
If the threat caused a serious disruption of public communications, transportation or utilities, if it caused a large portion of the public to fear for their safety or if it interfered with the operations of local, state or federal governments, the charge can be upgraded to a felony of the third degree. This is punishable by:
- Two to 10 years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000