Terrorist attacks around the world and mass shootings at home created an atmosphere where even the hint of violence cannot be ignored. Since 9/11, Minnesota enacted a series of stricter and stricter laws regarding “terroristic threats”; however, the vague and broadly defined term has become problematic for Minnesotans. What was once considered just an angry word can now be prosecuted as a felony offense that will stay with the convicted person for the rest of his or her life.
Ask a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota to define “terroristic threat”, and you’ll likely get a different answer each time. Generally speaking, a terroristic threat is any threat of violence against a person or property; or a disruption of public services. Minnesota uses a three tiered system to categorize the degree of the threat, but all three tiers are felonies.
Problems For Minnesotans
At issue for a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota is the vague nature of the law. Four areas are specifically troublesome.
- How the threat is conveyed: In Minnesota, a threat can be anything from a verbal tirade to a written statement, but new rules allow prosecution for innuendo and body language. In those cases, the intent of the accused is less important to the courts than the perception of the person who found the action threatening.
- Specifics of the threat: A person accused of making a terroristic threat can be convicted even when there were no specifics about the time or method of attack. So long as the threat includes mention of death, injury or damage, a threat exists.
- Probability: The threat must be considered reasonable and viable by the person hearing it for the threat to be a crime. A 12 year old threatening to destroy the school with a tank is not going to be convicted of terroristic threats. On the other hand, an adult who makes the same claim could be held responsible, even if the possibility of that person driving a tank is remote.
- Degree of terror: If the person hearing the threat feels terrified, the State can prosecute, even if there was no intent behind the threat.
A criminal defense attorney in Minnesota will be necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of anyone accused of making terroristic threats. The laws as so broad, and the punishments so severe, that Minnesotans shouldn’t take a risk.