A person can be charged with making a terroristic threat if they use words to instill fear in others. Examples of terroristic threats include statements like:
“I wish I could burn this place down.”
“I am going to blow this place up.”
“I am going to beat every one of you up!”
Now, it is very possible that you have said at least one of those statements at some point in your life. How many times have you been aggravated at work and verbalized how you would like to burn the place down? It isn’t like you were serious, but someone may have taken you seriously and it led to a terroristic charge.
Then there are those who get into fights and they may yell threats at the other person while cussing them out. Everything that is said is typically said out of anger. Statements like, “I’ll kill you” can be taken seriously.
In one case, a young man was drunk and beating on a window of a friend who locked him outside. The drunk man was yelling obscenities while beating on the window, so the friend called the police. This resulted in the drunk man being arrested and charged with terroristic threats.
Over time, the terroristic threat charge has become a catch-all felony for when a person simply has a big mouth. They may not have had a previous criminal offense on their record at all, but saying things that others perceive as being a true threat can result in the charge.
Now, a person who says that they have planted a bomb in a building has made a true terroristic threat. This creates panic of the masses and can cause entire buildings to evacuate. In the meantime, every person is concerned with getting out as soon as possible because they are fearful that the building will blow up while they are inside. This is causing people to fear for their lives.
However, a simple fight does not always result in individuals fearing for their lives, but it is prosecuted just as aggressively as if someone made a bomb threat.
One trend that has happened lately is perceived threats over social media or individuals simply having a “big mouth,” thinking that they will not get into any trouble for saying what they want over sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
A number of teenagers have found themselves suspended from school and criminal charges filed against them.
One student made a tweet about “drilling my teammates hard.” The young man played football and anyone who knows anything about football knows that “drilling” in contact sports means a hard tackle.
However, this was perceived as a threat and it landed the young man in trouble. Those that did not interpret what he was saying correctly took it as a terroristic threat, thus landing him in trouble.
This is a case where the young man did not have a big mouth, but the public perception or interpretation of the statement resulted in an issue, which is the case in many terroristic threat cases.