Getting into an angry situation sometimes means you say harsh and negative comments that you wish you had not said after calming down. However, in the age of social media, words can be on electronic display for just anybody to see. Sometimes those words can draw the attention of law enforcement, particularly if they imply harm to one or more persons.
New Jersey law criminalizes a kind of speech called terroristic threats. The law considers this speech a form of assault even if it does not inflict physical harm. However, a terroristic threat can create intense fear of violence and death and may result in harm if people panic because of the threat.
The definition of terroristic threats
State law breaks down terroristic threats into different types. A third-degree terroristic threat happens if someone threatens another person just to make that individual feel in imminent danger of death. A person could also be guilty of making a threat that causes people in a public place or vehicle to evacuate for fear of violence or destruction.
It may be possible that a county government or the state or federal government will declare a state of emergency. If so, a person making a terroristic threat during this time could face a second-degree charge as a result. The threatening party cannot make a defense that he or she did not know it was a state of emergency.
Proving a terroristic threat
The mere fact of verbalizing a threat against someone does not make you automatically guilty. As New Jersey law points out, a person under threat must reasonably believe that the threat is imminent or that the individual doing the threatening could carry out violence. An irrational statement made after consuming alcoholic drinks might not qualify as a realistic threat.
Keep in mind that a defense offered by another person charged with a terroristic threat might not be the defense that works best for you. The circumstances of assault cases can vary, so you will want to pay attention to any aspect of your case that will inform your defense.