Austin, TX

Austin Terroristic Threat Attorney

Austin Terroristic Threats Attorney | ATX Legal

Whether charged as a class B misdemeanor, a state jail felony, or a third degree felony, a terroristic threat charge can turn your life upside down, both short and long term. At ATX Legal, we understand what our clients are going through when faced a terroristic threat charge. Our clients stay informed at every step in the process. Facing terroristic threat charges can be daunting, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process and achieve a favorable outcome. Call or text 512-677-5003 to schedule a free consultation with a terroristic threat lawyer.

The Texas Penal Code on Terroristic Threats

According to Texas Penal Code Section 22.07, “A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with the intent to: (1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies; (2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; (3) 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; (4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service; (5) or place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or (6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.”

What Does The Definition Terroristic Threat Mean in Plain English?

In Texas, a terroristic threat is defined more broadly than one might initially assume. Beyond threats related to what we typically understand as “terrorism,” Texas Penal Code Section 22.07 outlines several scenarios that fall under the umbrella of terroristic threats. A person commits terroristic threat if they cause a reaction of any type to an emergency agency officially organized to deal with emergencies, places any person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, or prevents or interrupts the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, vehicle, or other public place. This broad definition means that what might seem like a minor threat could potentially have serious legal implications under Texas law. If a peace office or public servant has to respond, you might be charged with making terroristic threats.

Terroristic Threat vs. Simple Assault

While both involve threatened or actual harm, terroristic threats and simple assault are distinct under the law. A simple assault, according to Texas Penal Code Section 22.01, occurs when a person knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, threatens another with imminent bodily harm, or causes physical contact that the other may regard as offensive or provocative. On the other hand, a terroristic threat involves a threat to commit violence with the intent to incite fear, disrupt public services, or influence government activities, as outlined in Texas Penal Code Section 22.07. A big difference lies in the intent: a terroristic threat is chiefly about causing fear or disruption, even without physical harm, while an assault requires an act (or intentional threat) of physical harm or offensive contact.

Misdemeanor Terrorist Threat Charges

In Texas, a misdemeanor terroristic threat charge can arise from a variety of scenarios. For instance, a person may be charged with a misdemeanor terroristic threat if they were to call in a false bomb threat to a school, causing panic and leading to the evacuation of the building, even if no actual bomb existed. Similarly, a person could face this charge for threatening to burn down their neighbor’s house in the heat of an argument, even if they had no real intent to carry out the threat. Another example might be a social media post threatening violence at a public event with the aim of causing fear and chaos, even if no violence was actually planned. These instances all involve threats that create fear of serious bodily injury, disrupt public spaces, or provoke responses from emergency services, aligning with the legal definition of a terroristic threat under Section 22.07 of the Texas Penal Code.

Felony Terrorist Threat Charges

Although typically charges as misdemeanor, Felony terroristic threat charges can arise if they involve a more severe level of perceived danger or a greater disruption to public order. These might encompass threats of serious bodily injury aimed at a larger group of people, threats leading to significant public panic, or threats that result in substantial financial damage due to the disruption of public or private services. Furthermore, if a terroristic threat is linked with the intent to influence the actions or policies of the government by coercion or intimidation, it can be charged as a felony.

Terroristic Threat Against a Family Member

If a terroristic threat is made against a family member or household, the charge constitutes family violence even if no assault occurred. Threats made towards any member of the family or household, or against any person’s property, can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. This is due to the personal nature of family and household relationships, and the potential for such threats to create a heightened level of fear and distress. If the threat leads to fear of imminent serious bodily injury, the charge may escalate further. These laws aim to protect individuals from psychological harm as well as physical harm, acknowledging the significant impact that terroristic threats can have on a person’s wellbeing.

Defenses for a Terroristic Threat Charge

Potential defenses to a terroristic threat charge in Texas largely hinge on undermining the prosecution’s assertion of the defendant’s intent.

Lack of Intent

One of the key elements in a terroristic threat charge is that the threat must be intentional. In fact, this crime requires specific intent to cause a reaction to the threat, which is a higher threshold than most criminal cases. If the defense can prove that the defendant did not intend to provoke fear or cause a disruption, this could potentially lead to a dismissal of charges.

Free Speech

Another potential defense involves the First Amendment, which protects free speech. The defense could argue that the defendant’s statements were merely hyperbole or a figure of speech, and not intended to be taken as a serious threat.

No Reasonable Fear

A terroristic threat charge also requires that the recipient of the threat have a reasonable fear that the threat would be carried out. If it can be demonstrated that no reasonable person in the recipient’s position would have been in fear of serious bodily injury, this could serve as a potential defense.

False Accusation

Lastly, a defense can be built around the premise of a false accusation. This could occur in heated situations where one party might falsely accuse another out of spite, revenge, or misunderstanding. Proving this requires a thorough investigation and strong evidence. Each case is unique and requires a detailed examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged threat. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the specifics of the case and determine the most effective defense strategy. A teenager in San Antonio was charged with third degree felony terroristic threat for Facebook comments about League of Legends.

Texas ‘Facebook Threat’ Case

The Texas ‘Facebook Threat’ case refers to the incident involving Justin Carter, a Texas teenager who, in 2013, posted a threatening message on Facebook, leading to his arrest and a charge of making a terroristic threat. Carter, during an argument on Facebook about an online video game, made remarks interpreted as threats of a school shooting, albeit followed by “jk” (just kidding). Despite this, his comments were reported to the authorities, and he was subsequently arrested. This case ignited a nationwide debate over the line between free speech and punishable threats, particularly in the context of online communication. Carter faced a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted, underscoring the severity with which Texas law treats terroristic threats. Rob Chesnutt is an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Finding the Right Austin, Texas Defense Attorney

If you are accused of making a terroristic threat, you should absolutely speak with an attorney that has your interests in mind. There is nothing to lose by scheduling a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Text “consult” to 512-677-5003 or fill out a contact form and we will reach out within 24 hours.
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