Criminal Charge of Terrorism Threat

Terrorism has been in the news quite a bit lately. But what exactly is terrorism? What is a terrorist threat? This article aims to explain how the state of California legally defines terrorism, who can be charged, and what to do in the situation that you are charged with a terrorist threat. When in doubt, contact experienced criminal lawyers in Sacramento for legal advice.

What is a “terrorist threat?”

California state law defines a terrorist threat as an act of threatening to kill or physically harm another person. It doesn’t matter whether that individual actually carries out, or even intends to carry out, the threat – the threat alone is sufficient for a charge to be brought against someone. There are three requirements for a threat to be considered a terrorist threat:

  • Threatening to commit a crime that results in the death or physical injury of another person
  • Intention that the statement of intent be taken as a threat
  • The threat was specific and serious enough to convey to the victim that the threat was valid
  • The threat made the victim fear for his or her safety or that of his or her immediate relatives
  • The victim was reasonable in his or her fear given the circumstances

California Penal Code Section 422 explains that the threat may be made verbally, in writing, or through an electronic communication device. An electronic communication device may include the following:

  • Cell phone
  • Computer
  • Fax
  • Pager
  • Video recorder

The individual who makes the threat does not even have to have the intent of carrying it out to be considered guilty of a terrorist threat. Although it may be rare for a domestic terrorist threat to occur, it’s important you speak to skilled criminal lawyers in Sacramento if you are charged of a terrorist threat.

Proving the Charge

In order to prove an individual is guilty of a terrorist threat, the following must be established:

  • The victim was actually afraid
  • The victim’s fear was reasonable
  • The victim’s fear was sustained for a period of time

For the above to be true, the threat must be specific and unmistakable in meaning. Some threats are protected by free speech, especially when they are not specific or seem very serious. For example, when a person becomes frustrated at a public event and has an angry outburst, a threat that is uttered may be protected.

A conviction of making a terrorist threat can include severe penalties, such as jail time, restraining orders, penalties such as fines, and probation. If the threat is charged as a felony, a conviction can count as one “strike” contributing to California’s Three Strikes Law. After two serious felony convictions, the third comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. Terrorist threats are taken very seriously in America and it’s crucial you consult criminal lawyers in Sacramento if you are charged of a terrorist threat.

Terrorist Threat with a Weapon of Mass Destruction

A weapon of mass destruction may include the following:

  • A biological agent
  • A toxin
  • A chemical weapon
  • A nuclear agent
  • A radiological agent

An individual who threatens to use a weapon of mass destruction verbally or through another communication method, such as electronically, may be charged with a terrorist threat involving a weapon of mass destruction. An individual may be charged with this crime even if there was no true intention to carry it out but the threat was unmistakably clear and specific and caused the victim to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others for a sustained period of time. This crime may be punished by the following:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for up to one year
  • Imprisonment in state prison for 3, 4, or 6 years
  • A fine of up to $250,000

This charge can be brought against an individual even if he or she did not have the access to a weapon of mass destruction. Sustained fear may be established if the victim(s) vacated his or her home, school, place of work, etc. It also may be established if there was any isolation, quarantine, or decontamination effort.

False threat

It is illegal to give, mail, send, or cause to be sent any fake weapon of mass destruction to another person with the intent to create fear for that person’s safety or the safety of others may be charged with a misdemeanor. If the sending of this false weapon of mass destruction causes the victim to be fearful for a sustained period of time, the consequences of conviction may be more serious and include the following:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for up to one year
  • Imprisonment in state prison for 16 months
  • Imprisonment for two or three years
  • A fine of up to $250,000

Seek Advice

Being charged with a terrorist threat in the state of California is very serious. It can be a very complicated process with confusing rules and unforgiving prosecutors. It’s extremely important to seek an experienced criminal defense attorney in the unfortunate case of being charged with any of these crimes. Criminal lawyers in Sacramento will help you through this difficult process and fight on your side to help you avoid conviction.

Speak to Our Criminal Lawyers in Sacramento Regarding any Terrorist Threat Accusation

Terrorism can come in all types of forms and it’s imperative you contact our criminal lawyers in Sacramento if you are charged with a terrorist threat. Allaye Chan Law has handled over 20,000 criminal cases and we’re here to serve you. Give us a call at (916) 446-4400 for a consultation.