Terroristic threat is a commonly charged offense in the State of Texas, and usually involves a threat against a person, although it can also encompass threats against public entities, buildings, or public utilities. The statute is broad and covers threats against people and property in a variety of situations. However, most cases of terroristic threat that are filed in the State of Texas involve a threat of physical harm made to a specific person.
Where a person is charged with terroristic threat for intending to put a specific person in fear of bodily injury, it is important to note several things about the statute. First, the threat made must be for “imminent” serious bodily injury. Although imminent is not a defined term, Texas cases have noted that it means near at hand, impending, or on the point of happening. In other words, a remote threat or a conditional threat (in other words, one that will only take place if certain future events occur) will usually not meet this requirement and should be dismissed. Recently attorney Jose Ceja obtained a dismissal in a case where a defendant told a police officer (after a dispute with the officer) that if the officer wasn’t wearing a uniform, he would beat him up. Because this threat was conditioned on a future event taking place and was not imminent, the judge found that there was not probable cause to support it.
Next, the threat must have been made with the specific intent to place someone in fear of imminent serious bodily. This element focuses on the defendant’s intent. Whether the victim was actually placed into fear is not critical, although it can be considered. Arguably, in the above example of a defendant telling a police officer that he would beat him up if he wasn’t wearing a uniform, the intent of the defendant would not have been to place him in fear of imminent bodily injury, since the threatened act would only take place in the future and after a condition was met.
It should also be noted that the statute requires a threat of serious bodily injury. The Texas Penal Code defines serious bodily injury as injury that creates a substantial risk of death or serious permanent disfigurement. A threat to slap someone or punch someone, for example, might not meet the requirement of serious bodily injury. In many cases, the degree of the threat, and whether it constitutes a threat of serious bodily injury, could be an issue for a jury to decide.
Terroristic threat ranges from a Class “B” misdemeanor to a third-degree felony depending on who the threat was made against. Most terroristic threats made against an individual are Class “B” misdemeanors, but can become Class “A” misdemeanors if committed against family members, or State Jail Felonies if they are made against police officers or judges. A charge of terrorist threat can result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days all the way to ten years in prison, as well as substantial fines.
As in all criminal cases, the first step in defending a terroristic threat case is obtaining the evidence. Once your attorney obtains the evidence, he can look for legal or factual problems that could cause the case to be dismissed. Wherever possible, a smart criminal defense attorney will obtain a favorable statement from any witness or even the victim of the alleged threat. The goal is always a dismissal of the terroristic threat case.
Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who spend almost a decade working at one of the premier criminal defense firms in the State of Texas. He has handled countless terroristic threat cases and regularly obtains favorable results. If you are charged with terroristic threat anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja is an excellent choice. Call today for a free consultation.