It’s one thing when two children argue and one laughingly threatens to kill the other. It may be inappropriate and something a parent may need to address, but it is a completely different situation when a grown person in anger threatens to harm someone. This is considered terroristic threatening. Despite no actual violence taking place, the threat is enough that Kentucky has three specific statutes in place criminalizing this behavior. US Legal defines terroristic threatening as “a crime generally involving a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.” Kentucky has three categories addressing the crime, each with differing levels of severity.
As terroristic threatening is a speech-based crime, threats made via social media — not just direct verbal contact, notes or phone calls — are considered a crime. Essentially any communication, including social media such as Facebook or Twitter, can be used to commit the crime.
Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree
The law of Kentucky states that a person is guilty of terroristic threatening in the first degree, a class C felony, generally if the threat involves schools, school properties or school functions. Specifically, it is a crime for a person to intentionally make false statements that they or another person has placed a weapon of mass destruction at:
- The real property or any building of any public or private elementary or secondary school, vocational school, or institution of postsecondary education
- A school bus or other vehicle owned, operated, or leased by a school
- The real property or any building public or private that is the site of an official school-sanctioned function
- The real property or any building owned or leased by a government agency.
It is also terroristic threatening in the first degree if a person actually places a fake weapon of mass destruction at any of the sites. It is not considered a crime if the person has the authority to place the fake weapon for the purposes of a training exercise, or if an individual reports someone placing what they in good faith believe could be such a weapon.
Terroristic Threatening in the Second Degree
The state considers it terroristic threatening in the second degree, a class D felony, if a person intentionally:
- With respect to a school function, threatens to commit any act likely to result in death or serious physical injury to any student group, teacher, volunteer worker, or employee of a public or private elementary or secondary school, vocational school, or institution of postsecondary education, or to any other person reasonably expected to lawfully be on school property or at a school sanctioned activity, if the threat is related to their employment by a school, or work or attendance at school, or a school function. A threat directed at a person or persons or at a school does not need to identify a specific person or persons or school in order for a violation of this section to occur.
- Makes false statements that he or she has placed a weapon of mass destruction at any location other than one already listed.
As previously, a person with authority to place such a counterfeit weapon for training exercises or a person in good faith reporting such an act is not guilty of a crime.
Terroristic Threatening in the Third Degree
A person is guilty of terroristic threatening in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, when he or she:
- Threatens to commit any crime likely to result in death or serious physical injury to another person or likely to result in substantial property damage to another person
- Intentionally makes false statements for the purpose of causing evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation.
The state of Kentucky has guidelines for sentencing based on the class of crime. In reference to terroristic threatening, they are:
- Class C Felony: Not less than five nor more than 10 years; Fine of $1,000-$10,000.
- Class D Felony: Not less than one nor more than five years; Fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor: 90 days to one year in jail; Maximum fine $500.
One commonly used defense against the charge of terroristic threatening is lack of intent. For example, if it can be reasonably assumed, based on context and history, that the communication was a joke and could be reasonably construed as a joke, it does not constitute terroristic threatening.
If you have been charged with terroristic threatening, contact Dan Carman & Attorneys, PLLC as soon as possible. A network of criminal defense attorneys across Kentucky, we have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the legal process.
Dan Carman and Attorneys will make sure that your rights are protected. Whether you are facing charges, suspect you might be charged in the future or have already been found guilty, our Kentucky defense attorneys can help you. Attorney Dan Carman has served in the United States Marine Corps as defense counsel, prosecutor, legal assistance attorney, and in-house counsel for an infantry battalion. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.