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Terroristic Threat Lawyer in Texas

Acts of terrorism, both foreign and domestic, have been in the news constantly for years. While the word “terroristic” conjures images of large-scale bombings and shooting on a national scale, the crime of terroristic threatening is much more simple and common. In general, you can be convicted of terroristic threatening if you threaten violence and intend to follow through with that threat.

The requirement of specific intent is what differs terroristic threatening from a charge of simple assault. If you've been charged with making terroristic threats, your best course of action is to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

What Constitutes a Terroristic Threat in Texas?

Under Texas law, any threat of violence to either person or property can be the basis of a terroristic threat charge. However, that threat of violence must be accompanied with criminal intent to either follow through with the threat or terrify another into believing you may do so. There are six specific types of intent covered by Texas law, and the prosecutor only needs to prove you had one of them to obtain a conviction. These include 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 forms of conveyance, or other public places;
  4. cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public services;
  5. 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.

Terroristic Threat vs. Simple Assault

The charge of making a terroristic threat is similar to one element of an assault charge under Texas law. You can be convicted of assault in Texas for threatening bodily injury to another person if the threat reasonably makes that person fear imminent harm.

A terroristic threat can involve the exact same threat as an assault case. The difference is the intent of the person making that threat. A terroristic threat has been committed if you had the intent described above, regardless of whether your alleged victim was in any fear of imminent harm. This distinction is important given a terroristic threat charge typically carries a stiffer penalty than simple assault.

Potential Punishment for a Terroristic Threat Charge

Generally, a terroristic threat is charged as Class B misdemeanor in Texas. However, there are certain factors that can increase that charge to a Class A misdemeanor. In the most serious cases that have widespread effects on the public, a terroristic threat can be classified as a third-degree felony.

Misdemeanor Terrorist Threat Charges

By default, a charge for terroristic threats is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. It is punishable for up to six months in county jail and carries a maximum fine of $2,000. However, if those threats were made against a family member or public servant, the charge can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry up to one year in the county jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.

Felony Terrorist Threat Charges

A terroristic threat charge can be upgraded to a third-degree felony in cases where the threat impacted the public at large. Specifically, a threat will be charged as a third-degree felony if the intent was to:

  • cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public services;
  • place the public or a 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.

A terroristic threat charge can also be classified as a state jail felony if a threat was coupled with the intent to prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building, room, aircraft, or other places of public assembly. The prosecutor must also show that the threat led to damages of at least $1,500 to the owner of the property the threat was made against. A state jail felony carries a sentence between 180 days and two years in jail along with a maximum fine of $10,000.

Defenses for a Terroristic Threat Charge

There are common defenses for every crime including having an alibi, consent, and unlawful seizure of evidence. However, the two defenses specific to making a terroristic threat are the absence of a threat and the absence of criminal intent.

Absence of Threat

For there to be a terroristic threat, there must be a threat to begin with. Words get taken out of context, witnesses stretch the truth, and misunderstandings happen. If you never made an actual threat to begin with, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to show a jury that you aren't guilty of any crime.

Absence of Intent

Ultimately, a prosecutor must prove intent to obtain a conviction of making a terroristic threat. That means even if a threat was made, it may not rise to the level of a terroristic threat if the state can't prove you and the necessary intent to commit the crime. It's worth noting that if a threat is made it could be considered a separate crime like assault even if you are ultimately innocent of making a terroristic threat. It's important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer so that you can understand the full scope of the potential legal jeopardy you face.

Finding the Right Texas Defense Attorney

Have you been charged with making a terroristic threat in the Odessa, Texas area? The Law Office of E. Jason Leach is here to help. E. Jason Leach is a board-certified expert in criminal defense law who dedicates his practice exclusively to defending those accused of a crime. Contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today for your free consultation.

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