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Terroristic Threats: From Swatting to Bomb Scares

Young Person Using Cell Phone

Today terroristic threats are usually made via phone, email, or the US postal service. We hear the term domestic terrorism, but often associate it with a political cause. Terroristic threats can begin as a prank or a poor decision that got out of control.

What the law says

Under California law, the elements of the completed crime of making threats with intent to terrorize are:

  1. Willfully threatening to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily injury to another person,
  2. Specific intent that the statement be taken as a threat,
  3. The threat was on its face and under the circumstances so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat,
  4. The threat caused the victim to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, and
  5. The victim’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances.
  6. The danger threatened doesn’t have to exist. The fear and disruption caused by the threat are enough to cause danger.

The classic example of this is shouting fire in a crowded movie theater, or calling in a bomb threat to a school. There doesn’t need to be an actual bomb there. The threat is enough to clear classrooms, cause terror and panic, as well as the loss of class time, labor costs, investigation expenses, etc.

Terroristic threats on social media

It is common for those accused of making terroristic threats to say that their words or actions were misunderstood or were taken out of context. Each of us now has a public platform from which we can say whatever we want. Sometimes that can get us into trouble.

  • “I’m going to kill the next moron who cuts me off in traffic.”
  • “Let’s blow up the school so we can skip finals this week.”
  • “I’m going to assassinate….”
  • “If my girlfriend leaves me I’m going to do something crazy.”

Often, when people say things like these, they don’t actually mean them. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we can’t afford to take that chance.

Swatting

Swatting is something that is intended as a prank, but it can have deadly results. Swatting is a hoax, perpetrated by someone with the intent of sending a swat team to someone’s home. In order to achieve this, the prankster calls 911, often claiming to have hostages and guns, with a willingness to use them. There are about 400 swatting incidents annually, each incident costing $10,000 and taking resources from actual emergencies.

In March of 2019, A California man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for phoning a false hostage threat to police in Wichita, resulting in the death of an innocent man. When the police arrived, at the address they had been given by the “swatter” they expected to find an armed hostage-taker who had already killed once. One of the officers ended up shooting the innocent father of 2 who opened the door. Later, that man’s niece, who witnesses the shooting of her uncle, committed suicide.

Bomb threats

In 2017 there were 1,228 bomb threats in the US. The majority of them were in California. Some of them may have been similar to a recent case in Minnesota. Ray Ghansham Persaud, 20, was a student at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. In April and August of 2019, he called in a bomb threat. The buildings in question were emptied, students sent home, and the FBI called in. Both times, nothing was found.

Then, another call was made in September. Like with the earlier threats, no bomb was discovered during the search. This time, however, they traced the call to his home in a northern Minneapolis suburb and arrested him. While no motive was given, it was noted that he had classes in each of the buildings at the time the threats were made. Was he trying to get out of a difficult test? It won’t necessarily matter when he goes before the judge. What will matter is how well he is represented by his legal team.

Have you been arrested for terroristic threats? It’s important that you have the best legal defense team on your side. Premier Federal Criminal Defenders are experienced in helping clients work with the court to resolve the issue. Contact Premier Federal Criminal Defenders for a free consultation today.

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