“Terroristic threats” is a crime with a name that makes the offense sound far worse than it is. In most cases, a terroristic threats charge under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-3 is a third degree crime with the potential of prison time, but it does not necessarily involve anything as serious or outrageous as terrorism.
If you or a loved one was charged with terroristic threats, you likely face other charges alongside the threats charge, and you could be facing the potential of years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. For a free consultation with a terroristic threats lawyer in Atlantic City, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 625-3006. Our attorneys have combined decades of experience representing people on their criminal cases, and we may be able to take your case, too.
What are “Terroristic Threats” under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-3?
Many crimes of violence account only for the actual violence, not the words or actions surrounding the violence. While the crime of assault deals with physical blows or strikes and the crime of disorderly conduct may be used to punish “engaging in fighting,” a crime like terroristic threats deals with the words surrounding the physical harm. At its simplest, the crime of terroristic threats punishes violent threats made against another person.
Threats of Violence or Terrorism
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-3(a), it is illegal to “threaten to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building … or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.” Breaking this down, we see multiple situations where this crime could be charged:
- Threats intended to terrorize the public,
- Threats intended to terrorize an individual,
- Threats to commit a crime (e.g. assault), or
- Bomb scares or false fire/terror alerts.
Note that this law also covers two different levels of intent. Every crime needs some mental requirement, known as “mens rea.” Most offenses have the specific mental requirement listed in the statute. For the crime of terroristic threats, we see two possible options for the mental state: a crime can either be committed “with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation … or … serious public inconvenience,” or “in reckless disregard of the risk of” one of these issues. Proving intentional action – action with purpose – is difficult in criminal cases. This requires evidence to show you meant for the act to end in fear, evacuation, or public inconvenience. Since the statute gives the option of charging recklessness instead, the crime actually becomes easier for the government to prove in court.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-3(b) governs a much more specific type of terroristic threat: threats to kill. Threatening to kill someone else is illegal, but only constitutes “terroristic threats” if the purpose behind the threat was to put the victim “in imminent fear of death.” There must also be circumstances where the victim would “believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out.” This means that written threats or threats over the phone, threats of future harm (e.g. “I’ll kill you next month,”), or threats that involve unbelievable situations/methods may not qualify as terroristic threats.
Penalties for Terroristic Threats in New Jersey
First, either crime under subsection (a) or (b) is usually a third degree crime. Third degree crimes are a moderate level of crime, with 2 potential levels above this and 2 potential levels below. In New Jersey, third degree crimes are punished by 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
If terroristic threats under subsection (a) are committed “during a declared period of national, State or county emergency,” the crime is increased to a second degree crime. This has increased penalties of 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. For this increase, it does not make a difference if the actor knew there was a declared emergency or not.
On top of these penalties, judges may order the actor to pay for any harms they caused. Especially if the threats you issued resulted in evacuation, stopping of business, emergency response, or other procedures, you may be required to pay for the costs of all of these effects. This may also constitute an offense under other similar statutes.
Many threats are frivolous parts of a fight or disagreement, and may not be true threats. In many cases, these charges could be reduced or dropped to lower your overall sentence. Talk to an attorney about your options for having charges reduced through plea negotiations.
Our Terroristic Threats Lawyers in Atlantic City Offer Free Consultations
The terroristic threats defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those accused of threatening others with crimes of violence in South Jersey. If you or a loved one needs representation on your criminal charges, contact our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers today at (609) 625-3006. We offer free consultations to help you understand what our lawyers can do to fight your case and work to get charges dropped and dismissed.