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In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to threaten to harm other people. This is known as making “terroristic threats.” The term is somewhat misleading since any mention of the phrase “terrorism” sounds like it applies to a specific scenario – but these charges actually apply to a wide range of actions. Making terroristic threats is a somewhat common criminal charge and often goes hand-in-hand with assault and other charges related to fighting. Sometimes, even a situation stemming from a heated argument with a friend or neighbor could rise to the level of what’s considered making terroristic threats.
Just because making terroristic threats is a charge that is common, that does not mean it is a light offense. A terroristic threats charge in Philadelphia could lead to jail time, fines, and a criminal record.
If you or a loved one has been charged with making terroristic threats in Philadelphia, you should immediately speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense or call for a free consultation at 215-712-1212 today. Attorney Lauren Wimmer has successfully handled terroristic threats cases and will fight to get charges dropped and penalties reduced.
The Term “Terroristic Threats” is Much Broader Than You Might Think
Terroristic threats under § 2706(a) includes a few different types of threats. Note, first, that these threats do not need to be directly made to the victim(s); indirect threats still count, as long as the victim is the one who suffered the threat.
Making terroristic threats includes any threat to:
- Commit a crime of violence, if the intent is to terrorize the victim;
- Cause a building’s evacuation; or
- Cause public inconvenience, terror, or serious public inconvenience.
Some examples of these could fit into multiple categories. For instance, threatening to blow up a building is a threat to commit a crime under subsection (a)(1), but it’s also a threat that causes the evacuation of a building under (a)(2).
The following are all examples of actions that would count under at least one of these subsections:
- Threatening to hit someone;
- Threatening to steal from someone;
- Calling in a bomb threat, whether it is real or fake;
- Threatening to burn down a building; or
- Scaring someone by threatening harm to someone else.
This list covers only a few examples; anything that technically fits the definition of one of these types of terroristic threats can lead to a conviction. Generally, prosecutors and police apply this crime very broadly and include many types of conduct.
The Penalties for Terroristic Threats Can be Severe in Pennsylvania
In any case, terroristic threats carries a potential punishment that involves more than a year in prison and large fines. Depending on the specific acts involved, the crime will either be a misdemeanor or a felony. Either way, having a criminal record may prevent you from being able to get certain jobs, may increase your sentence for other crimes you commit later, or may disqualify you for programs to help you avoid jail time.
More Severe Penalties for “Interruptions” Stemming from Terroristic Threat Charges
If the threats, typically under subsection (a)(2) or (a)(3), cause a building to be evacuated, or cause some other disturbance to a facility, place of assembly, or public transportation, the crime is a felony of the third degree. In Pennsylvania, felonies of the third degree are punished by a maximum of seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
This kind of “interruption” would include things like:
- Having to stop trains, subways, busses, or traffic;
- Calling fire, EMS, or police responders to investigate the threat;
- Shutting down school, courtroom, government, or business activities to investigate the threat; or
- Shutting down church or other assemblies to investigate the threat.
There may also be other crimes, such as obstruction charges, that cover this conduct alongside the terroristic threats charges.
In any other case of terroristic threats, the crime is a misdemeanor of the first degree. This comes with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
The circumstances surrounding some claims of terroristic threats may not be very serious, especially if they were part of a heated argument or made without the intent to actually terrorize. These may be reduced to lesser offenses. Other cases, such as bomb threats, may be much more severe. In any case, Attorney Wimmer will work aggressively to get your charges dropped, dismissed, reduce a possible sentence, or reduce required restitution. Call for a free consultation at 215-712-1212 and learn what Wimmer Criminal Defense can do to reduce the charges you face as well as the associated consequences.
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer helps people who have been charged with terroristic threats in Philadelphia. Call today for a free and confidential consultation.