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What are Terroristic Threats Under Pennsylvania Law?

November 25, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Americans are all too familiar with terrorism and in many cases, how the law applies to acts of terror. A man was arrested in eastern Pennsylvania for armed robbery, terroristic threats, and other charges. An explanation of what is terroristic threats, and the possible penalties one might face, are described below.

What are Terroristic Threats?

A terroristic threat in Pennsylvania is any violent act against another person that is intended to terrorize them. Terroristic threats are speech-based crimes, which makes it extremely difficult for the prosecution to prove that what was said is a crime. People do have freedom of speech and so, when trying to secure a conviction for the offense, the prosecution has very specific elements they must prove.

The most important element is that the accused must have intended to terrorize, harm, intimidate, or interfere with a government function. In other words, the individual making the statement must have intended to instill fear in the person they were speaking to. To constitute a terroristic threat, the Pennsylvania statute states that the person making the threat must have done so in an attempt to:

  • Evacuate a building,
  • Evacuate an assembly,
  • Evacuate a mode of public transportation,
  • Cause a serious inconvenience to the public with a total disregard of the risk of doing so,
  • Terrorize with a total disregard of the risk of doing so, or
  • Commit a violent crime with the intent of terrorizing another human being

It is important to understand that a person may be charged with a terroristic threat if they directly or indirectly caused any of the above scenarios.

Penalties for Terroristic Threats

Terroristic threats are typically charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. In the event that the threat resulted in the evacuation of a building, mode of public transport, or an assembly that distracted from the standard operations of such, the offense could be charged as a third-degree felony.

A conviction for the most minor charge, a first-degree misdemeanor, may result in a maximum prison sentence of five years, and a fine between $1,500 and $10,000. Convictions for third-degree felonies can include a maximum prison sentence of seven years, and a fine between $2,500 and $15,000. In many cases, convicted individuals are also ordered to pay restitution for the costs of evacuating a building, EMS response, and transporting individuals from a place of assembly or building.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help with Your Case

If you have been charged with terroristic threats, or any other criminal offense, you need the help of an Allentown criminal defense lawyer that can help you beat the charges. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know how to create a solid defense and will challenge the prosecution’s arguments to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation so we can review your case.

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