TERRORISTIC THREAT IN TEXAS
I recently had the privilege of representing one of my clients on an allegation of Terroristic Threat. In this case, we were able to get a resolution through a trial by court (i.e. a Bench Trial). This experience gave me an opportunity to explore a charge that many people likely don’t imagine they’ll ever by charged with based on Terroristic being in the name. I will start with citing the statutory definition under Texas Penal Code § 22.07 (https://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-22-07.html). Next I will give you a rundown of the facts from my recently tried case. Lastly, I will let you in on the outcome of said case.
The elements of Terroristic Threat in Texas are as follows.
(a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:
(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;
(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
(5) place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.
Depending on the facts, a Terroristic Threat’s potential punishment can range from that of a Class B Misdemeanor all the way up to a Third Degree Felony.
As you can see, the actor or accused’s intent as to the threat, rather than the actual carrying out of said threat, is the crux to any solid argument by the State or the Defendant. In its most simple form; if I say I’m going to kill Myles and that statement places Myles in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury” (TXPC §22.07(a)(2)), my intent to actually follow through with murder doesn’t matter in regards to the charge of Terroristic Threat. The argument here is based only on my intent to frighten Myles.
We faced similar facts in our most recent trial, and the following information was presented at that trial. My client was involved in a year long custody battle with the maternal grandparents of his young child. The custody battle had involved unfounded ugly allegations and was contentious to say the least. During one particularly contentious meeting at a CPS office, maternal grandmother made an unfounded and unsupported accusation that my client was molesting his child. Again, unfounded, and unsupported. As you would expect, my client did not appreciate this accusation and proceeded to walk out of a family meeting to catch his breath outside. While in the presence of some of his family, but not maternal grandparents, my client said something to the effect of “I’ll kill those Mother F**kers for saying some sh*t like that.”. The family calmed the man down, and everyone went on about their day. Unfortunately, the child involved in the custody battle heard the statement and relayed the statement to maternal grandparents that same day.
Fast forward 8 days to maternal grandparent reporting the statement to local police and a request for investigation. The Police did a fine job investigating and my client gave a statement admitting to have said what he did in anger. He proceeded to explain that he never intended to kill the grandparents, in fact he never intended for the grandparents to hear that statement. The man was only upset about the unfounded accusations made against him and he ran his mouth off a bit too hot.
After the investigation was completed, a warrant went out. We then arranged a walk through and my client was released on bond for the charge of Terroristic Threat. Sadly, we also were dealing with a no bond hold on incarceration. So, this man sat in jail for two and half months waiting on trial. At trial we presented all the facts above, while pointing out the lapse in time between the statement and the report. During cross examination of the alleged victim, the complainant admitted to previously saying that she would do whatever it takes to send my client back to jail. In a mostly risky move, my client took the stand. He told the truth about the whole incident, and reaffirmed he was only speaking out of anger at the time.
After careful deliberation, the sitting Judge found my client Not Guilty based on the finding that the man did not intend to place the maternal grandparents in fear, much less imminent fear, evidenced by the delayed outcry.
Though my client sat over 2 months in jail, he was awarded for sticking to the truth and standing up to the charges presented against him. This is clearly not how every case ends, but it sure is sweet to hear those two words “Not Guilty”.
If you are facing a situation where you ran your mouth off a bit too much in anger and have been charged based on that behavior, feel free to give us a shout. We would love to help you navigate through the justice system and we’ll do our levelheaded best to shield you from injustice.