You may believe your child can only be charged with a crime if they commit a violent or deceptive act. Your son or daughter might think that talking about violence or performing a violent act is lawful or even protected by their right to free speech. The truth is they can face charges for simply threatening violence. Threatening an individual or organization with harm may be considered assault or a terroristic threat. Texas prohibits terroristic threats, and your child can face misdemeanor or felony charges if their actions constitute such an offense.
To help defend your child against allegations and charges of terroristic threats, you should work with an experienced Houston terroristic threats attorney. Whether your son or daughter has been charged or is currently under investigation, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away.
To schedule a free consultation with a Houston juvenile lawyer, call (713) 222-6767, or contact us online right away. We will listen to your story and explain the best next steps during a free initial consultation.
What is a Terroristic Threat?
You may wonder what Texas law considers a terroristic threat, because the actions are not widely-known criminal offenses. You may know that terrorism, or the threat of terrorism, is illegal. You may not know, however, that there are laws that define acts of terrorism or the laws that punish them.
Under the terroristic threat law, your child can be charged with a crime for making a threat of violence that appears to have a certain intent, such as to cause a significant reaction by the public, to incite fear, or to disrupt the functioning of government or society. A terroristic threat is one that may have a broader reach than a typical assault crime, which usually involves threats to a specific person or a small group of people. A terroristic threat can also target one specific person.
It is important that you know the crime of terroristic threats does not require your child to have a political or religious motive. While we often associate terrorism with extreme political or religious views, this particular statute does not care about the basis for the threat – only that the threat is made and the intent for it is to cause a certain outcome.
If you’re concerned about your child’s words or actions being misinterpreted as a threat, contact a Houston terroristic threats attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away.
The Texas Penal Code on Terroristic Threats
Texas defines terroristic threats in Texas Penal Code Section 22.07. It says your son or daughter commits the crime of making a terroristic threat if they threaten to commit an offense involving violence to a person or property with the intent to:
- Cause volunteer agencies or other official groups who respond to emergencies to react in any way
- Place other in fear of serious injury
- Prevent or interrupt the use of a building, “place of assembly,” or other public place
- Interrupt or impair public communications, public transportation, or public utility or service
- Place a large group in fear of serious injury
- Influence a branch or agency of the government, or a political subdivision of the state
Terroristic threats in Texas are taken seriously, and prosecutors will seek to charge your child with the highest offense possible. They also may seek the harshest penalty available for the level of the charge. To avoid a conviction for making terroristic threats, or to mitigate the consequences of a potential conviction, it is best to work with an experienced Houston terroristic threats attorney.
Examples of terroristic threat include:
- A woman threatening to damage a power station to disrupt electrical service to the public.
- Someone calling in a bomb threat to their previous employer.
- A teenager planting a fake bomb in their high school.
- A person threatening to kill their spouse.
- An individual threatening a mosque and its members.
Terroristic Threat Charges
You are likely wondering whether terroristic threats are a misdemeanor or felony. The crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the intent behind the threat.
Terroristic threats are a class B misdemeanor if your child intended to cause a reaction of any type by an official group or volunteer agency organized to handle emergencies.
When the terroristic threat places any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, it may be class B misdemeanor. It can also be charged as a class A misdemeanor if the threat was against a public servant or a member of your family. Terroristic threats are considered state jail felonies if the threat was against a peace officer or judge.
If your child makes a threat intended to prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a space or mode of transportation, they can be charged with a class A misdemeanor. However, if the financial loss to the building or vehicle owner is more than $1,500, they will be charged with a state jail felony.
Your child could face a more serious charges for a terroristic threat, though. If you impair or disrupt a public communication, transportation, utility, or service; if you place the public in fear of serious bodily; or if you influence a part of the government, then they will face a third-degree felony.
Regardless of what level of offense your child allegedly committed, it’s important to retain the help of a skilled Houston terroristic threats attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett.
Penalties for Terroristic Threats
The statutory penalties your son or daughter faces for making terroristic threats depends on the level of the charge they are found guilty of committing. Potential penalties include:
- Third-Degree Felony – Two to 10 years in prison, and fines reaching $10,000.
- State Jail Felony – Confinement in a state jail for between 180 days and two years, and fines reaching $10,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor – Up to one year in jail, and fines reaching $4,000
- Class B Misdemeanor – Confinement in jail for up to 180 days, and up to a $2,000 fine.
In addition to or in replacement of a term of incarceration, your child may be required to adhere to the rules of probation for months or years, undergo a period of home confinement and electronic monitoring, and complete other requirements.
Juvenile Terroristic Threats
Many terroristic threats are made by adolescents who may lack the maturity to understand the consequences of their words and actions. The most common example is a student threatening to cause harm at their school via a social media platform. Your child may be in trouble for threatening to bring a gun to school or planting a fake bomb. They could also face terroristic threat charges if they threatened another student directly, whether in-person, online, or through text or an app.
You may think that your child’s words online are simply a joke or an over-reaction. They said something when they were angry or frustrated, and you think they would never actually carry out the threat. However, juvenile terroristic threats in Texas are taken seriously and can lead to harsh consequences. In February 2018, Harris County prosecutors confirmed that they had filed more than 60 criminal cases against juveniles in the county for threatening shootings at their schools.
If your child makes a threatening comment online, it is likely that the police will see it and act. Teenagers can face felony charges in juvenile court, and if they are found to have committed the offense, they could face significant, long-lasting consequences.
The best thing for you to do when your child is questioned or taken into custody for a threat is to call a Houston criminal defense attorney from our firm for help.
Contact a Houston Terroristic Threats Attorney for Help
When your child faces allegations or criminal charges related to terroristic threats, the best thing you can do is hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney. You need to do everything you can to help your son or daughter avoid a criminal conviction. Attorney Ned Barnett will carefully investigate the claims against your child, review each piece of evidence, and build a strong defense on their behalf.