One of the most frequently charged criminal offenses in the Greater Houston area is terroristic threat. Although the terroristic threat statute encompasses a wide variety of behavior, virtually all cases that get filed involve a person making a threat to another person. Under Texas Penal Code 22.07(a)(2), this variation of terroristic threat involves threatening to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with the intent to place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. This type of terroristic threat is charged as a Class “B” misdemeanor, although it can be upgraded to a Class “A” misdemeanor if the threat is made against a member of the person’s family or household.
The consequences of a terroristic threat arrest can be significant and long-lasting. In addition to the possibility of jail time, or being put on probation, a terroristic threat conviction can make it more difficult to find work or potentially impact a professional license. If the defendant is not a United States Citizen, a terroristic threat conviction could also impact a person’s immigration status.
The article discusses the ways a terroristic threat case can be dismissed, and whether it is possible to do anything to help your chances of obtaining a dismissal. In the Greater Houston area, terroristic threat cases are dismissed every day, so a dismissal is possible (although every criminal case is different). If your case is dismissed, you will likely be eligible for an expunction of your records, which is considered to be the best possible result in a terroristic threat case.
To maximize the chances of a terroristic threat case being dismissed, a criminal defense attorney should begin by challenging the facts of the case. This means that the attorney will attempt to show that a case against a defendant is weak or problematic because the evidence is insufficient or unreliable. Perhaps the identity of the person who allegedly made the threat is in question, or the contents of the threat are disputed. Occasionally, a defense attorney may be able to argue that a terroristic threat case should be dismissed due to the vague or conditional nature of the threat. Under the terroristic threat statute, it is required that a threat be made to place a person in imminent threat of serious bodily injury.
To be able to challenge the facts of the case, a criminal defense attorney will need to be able to evaluate the evidence for himself. In most terroristic threat cases, the evidence consists of offense reports, 911 calls, body cameras from the officers that investigated the alleged incident and witness statements. Unfortunately, gathering evidence can be a slow process. In the Houston area, obtaining the evidence can sometimes take six months or more in a terroristic threat case (often evidence is obtained more quickly in terroristic threat cases from smaller police departments like the Pasadena Police Department).
An effective defense attorney should work to interview the complaining witness in a terroristic threat case. Interviewing a complaining witness is an art, and there is no exact roadmap to doing this most effectively. In general, it is a good idea for a defense attorney to wait until all of the evidence has been received so that the nature of the allegation can be fully understood, and the statement can respond to what has already been said to the police. In many cases, obtaining a truthful statement from the complaining witness is a critical part of getting a terroristic threat case dismissed.
Once the evidence has been obtained, your attorney should review it with you to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and make a recommendation as to how to move forward. Even if it appears that the facts are not on your side, it is still possible for an effective criminal defense attorney to obtain a dismissal in a terroristic threat case, particularly where a defendant has a minimal criminal history and the complaining witness is on the side of the defendant.
Reasonable prosecutors understand that people make mistakes and many do not see burdening a defendant with a criminal record as an effective means of helping a defendant or his family forward. As a result, some prosecutors are willing to dismiss some terroristic threat cases when they are convinced that the alleged behavior was an anomaly. A dismissal along these lines can be achieved informally or formally. On some occasions, a sympathetic prosecutor might be willing to dismiss a case if a defendant completes an anger management course or a certain amount of community service. On some occasions, a prosecutor may require a more formal agreement known as a pre-trial intervention. A pre-trial intervention (also known as a pre-trial diversion) in an agreement with the State of Texas that a terroristic threat case will be dismissed if certain conditions are completed.
In any criminal case, it is always better to obtain a dismissal because a criminal defense attorney is able to show that the case cannot be proven. In other words, it is much better to have a dismissal that is unconditional. However, in many cases, a dismissal as described in the last paragraph is just as good as a dismissal for any other reason (one of the only major downsides of a pre-trial diversion is that sometimes the District Attorney may maintain a record that your case was dismissed due to a pre-trial diversion, and that record might not be destroyed, even after an expunction).
How Can I Help Get My Terroristic Threat Case Dismissed?
With so much on the line in a terroristic threat case, many defendants will want to know if there is anything that they can do to make a dismissal more likely. You should always speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the unique facts of your situation before taking any action you think might help your case. But there are several general things that can be said.
First, you can help your case by staying out of trouble and obeying your bond conditions. It is very likely that there will be court orders in effect prohibiting you from speaking with the alleged victim in the case or going to his or her home or workplace. It is possible for a criminal defense attorney to modify these orders. But until the orders are modified, you should obey them strictly. Getting caught violating a protective order or bond condition in a terroristic threat case could cause you to get your bond revoked or even face a separate criminal charge. But it will also make it more difficult for your attorney to get your case dismissed for the simple reason that prosecutors will think that you are a bad person who does not respect the court’s authority and possibly presents a danger to the complaining witness.
It is a good idea to talk to your attorney before beginning therapy or counseling to address any issues that might have contributed to the alleged terroristic threat. In general, if you feel that you could benefit from therapy and counseling, then you should do it. But an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to advise you on the most effective way to accomplish this.
As noted above, every criminal case is different and you should consult with an experienced terroristic threat defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case. But it is possible to restore your name and peace of mind after a terroristic threat case. If you have been arrested for a terroristic threat anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.