Terroristic Threats and Acts

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Terroristic Threats and Acts

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-37 criminalizes both Terroristic Threats and Terroristic Acts. Terroristic Threats may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.  Terroristic Acts is always a felony.  The sentencing ranges for Terroristic Threats and Acts depend upon the circumstances surrounding the case.

Terroristic Threats

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-37, a person commits the offense of Terroristic Threats when he or she threatens to:

  • Commit any crime of violence,
  • Release any hazardous substance, or
  • Burn or damage property.

The law requires that the accused, at the time he or she made the threat, have the intent to:

  • Terrorize another person (or persons),
  • Cause the evacuation of a building, assembly, or public transportation facility, or
  • Cause serious public inconvenience.

Alternatively, the State may prove that the accused person acted in reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing another person, causing an evacuation, or causing serious public inconvenience.  For example, a person who calls in a prank bomb threat to a public school may be found to have been acting in reckless disregard of the risk of causing the evacuation of the school, even if the person had no specific intent to cause the evacuation.

In order to prove that a person committed a Terroristic Threat, the law requires corroboration, and no person may be convicted of the offense of Terroristic Threats based on the uncorroborated testimony of the party to whom the threat is communicated.   Corroboration is not an element of the offense.  Poole v. State, 326 Ga.App. 243 (2014).  Rather, it is an additional evidentiary rule imposed on the State by statute, and is a question for the jury.  Evans v. State, 266 Ga.App. 405 (2004).  The State need not prove corroboration beyond a reasonable doubt, but only must show “that amount of independent evidence which tends to prove that the incident occurred as alleged.  Walker v. State, 298 Ga.App. 265 (2009).  In the past, Georgia courts have been so loose with the corroboration requirement so as to render it almost useless.  For example, in Schneider v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s “aggressive and hostile conduct” leading up to a threat was sufficient corroboration.  Schneider v. State, 312 Ga.App. 504 (2011).  This is, of course, a disadvantage to people accused of Terroristic Threats charges.

It is also notable that, in Terroristic Threats cases, only the conduct of the accused person matters.  Whether the alleged victim was in fact “terrorized” due to the accused person’s conduct is irrelevant.  The offense is completed “when the threat is communicated to the victim with the intent to terrorize.”  Brown v. State, 325 Ga.App. 237 (2013).  Because it is the act of making the threat itself that is criminalized, the accused need not have the ability to actually carry out the threat in order to be charged and convicted for Terroristic Threats.  Edwards v. State, 330 Ga.App. 732 (2015).

Terroristic Acts

Under Georgia Law, a person commits a Terroristic Act when he or she:

  •  Uses a burning or flaming cross or other burning symbol with the intent to terrorize another person or that person’s household;
  • Shoots at or throws an object at a vehicle which is being operated or which is occupied by passengers;
  • Releases any hazardous substance or any simulated hazardous substance.

The law requires that the accused, at the time he or she committed the act, have the intent to:

  • Terrorize another person (or persons),
  • Cause the evacuation of a building, assembly, or public transportation facility,
  • Cause serious public inconvenience.

As with Terroristic Threats, acting with reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing another person, causing an evacuation, or causing serious public inconvenience is sufficient to prove intent to commit a Terroristic Act.

Penalties for Terroristic Threats/Acts Convictions

Offense Classification Possible Punishment
Terroristic Threat, where accused threatens violence other than death Misdemeanor Not more than one year imprisonment, and/or

A fine of up to $1,000.

Terroristic Threat, where accused threatens death to another individual Felony At least 1 year but not more than 5 years imprisonment, and/or

A fine of up to $1,000.

Terroristic Act Felony At least 1 year but not more than 10 years imprisonmnent, and/or

A fine of up to $5,000.

Terroristic Act, where a serious physical injury is a direct result of the terroristic act Felony At least 5 years but not more than 40 years imprisonment, and/or

A fine of up to $250,000.

Terroristic Act, when committed with the intent to prevent a person from attending a judicial proceeding as a witness, attorney, judge, clerk, court reporter, probation officer, or community supervision officer Felony At least 5 years but not more than 20 years imprisonment, and/or

A fine of up to $50,000.

Terroristic Act, when committed with the intent to prevent a person from giving information to law enforcement, probation, prosecuting attorney, or judge any information concerning bail, pretrial release, probation, or parole Felony At least 5 years but not more than 20 years imprisonment, and/or

A fine of up to $50,000.

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Why Hire an Attorney for a Terroristic Threats or Terroristic Acts Case?

These cases can be extremely serious, and they can be difficult to fight, given the challenges I outlined above.  These cases often come down to “he said, she said.”  You need someone who knows how to point out the holes in a witness’s story and help the jury see your side.  Often, that is the only way to win a case like this.  Call me today.

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