Terroristic Threats in NJ
Criminal Defense Lawyer & Former Prosecutor
The offense of Terroristic Threats is becoming more and more common in New Jersey. Insofar as these complaints are based on he said/she said type allegations, Terroristic Threats charges have a great incidence of trial in the experience of our New Jersey law firm. It is therefore particularly important for an individual to retain a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney if they have been arrested, charged and/or indicted for making a Terroristic Threat. The Law Offices of John F. Marshall represents individuals charged with this offense statewide including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Union County, Somerset County, Morris County, Essex County, Hudson County and Bergen County. If you are under investigation or have already been arrested or indicted for making a Terroristic Threat, our criminal attorneys are available to assist you. We can address your questions and concerns, and initial consultations with our lawyers are always free of charge.
The NJ Terroristic Threats Law
The New Jersey Terroristic Threats Law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 and provides as follows:
2C:12-3. Terroristic threats
a. A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. A violation of this subsection is a crime of the second degree if it occurs during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. The actor shall be strictly liable upon proof that the crime occurred, in fact, during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. It shall not be a defense that the actor did not know that there was a declared period of emergency at the time the crime occurred.
b. A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out.
Explanation of the Law
It should be pointed out initially that the topic of "terroristic threats" is often raised in the context of Domestic Violence, however, the circumstances giving rise to this charge need not have anything to do with a domestic relationship. All that is required is a threat of violence irrespective of the relationship from which the threat arises. The threats may be in written form or verbal threats, and they must cause serious alarm. The threats may be to physically injure someone, to damage or destroy their property, or to inflict the same on someone with whom they have an interest. It is not necessary for the threat to be tied to some object but only that the threat was made and that it reasonably caused fear. Indeed, so long as the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe the threat, that it was imminent, and that it could be carrier out, then there is a terroristic threat. It should be reiterated, however, that the statute contemplates "serious" threats that are not simply expressions of transitory anger. See Commission Commentary at paragraph 3. A threat to commit a disorderly persons offense will not, therefore, support a charge or indictment for terroristic threat. See State v. MacIlwraith, 344 N.J.Super. 544 (App.Div.2001). In evaluating whether a threat rises to the level of constituting a "terroristic threat", courts should consider the particular facts of each case and whether a reasonable person in that situation would believe the threat. See Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394 (1998). Given this standard, selection of the right trial lawyer who knows how to properly argue the facts and law is important.
With respect to a threat to kill an individual, the law requires that it be shown that the accused possessed a specific intent to place the victim in imminent fear of death. In other words, the threat must be made under circumstances manifesting a serious promise of death. See State v. Dispoto, 189 N.J. 108 (2007).
There are three material elements of a terroristic threats charge in New Jersey: (1) the accused made a threat; (2) the threat was to commit an offense of violence; and (3) the threat was made with the purpose of terrorizing or acted with reckless disregard of the risk that third parties would react in this manner. The criminal lawyers at our law firm make sure that the prosecution proves each and every element of the charge.
Reference to New Jersey's Model Jury Charge is also helpful in understanding the law and is located at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/charges/jury/terrthrt1.htm.
Penalties & Grading of Offense
The penalties for conviction of terrorist threats vary in New Jersey. Typically, the offense is a Third Degree crime. However, when the offense is committed during a period of national, state or county emergency, it is a crime of the Second Degree.
Merge & Severance of Charge
The doctrine of merger dictates that an indictment for terrorist threats merge into a conviction of a included higher grade offense. For example, a conviction for terroristic threats will merge into a conviction for first degree robbery as a lesser included offense such that an individual cannot be penalized separately for each offense.
State v. Van Valen, 316 N.J.Super. 20 (App.Div.1998). However, merger is not permitted when the other offense involves a lesser degree offense such as fourth degree aggravated assault.
State v. Hammond, 231
N.J.Super. 535 (App.Div.1989).
additionally, the doctrine of severance arises in this context as individuals can frequently be charged with violating a restraining order and receive a separate indictment for terroristic threats; the threat being the basis for the alleged violation. The law provides that it would be unfair to force a defendant indicted on both charges to try them together insofar as testimony concerning the existence of a restraining order would be unduly prejudicial in defending the terroristic threats offense. See State v. Chenique-Puey, 145 N.J. 334 (1996).
Terroristic Threat arrests and indictments are often very defensible. These cases are very fact sensitive a knowledgeable and well prepared attorney can be invaluable. The attorneys at our law firm offer these services and are prepared to defend you throughout New Jersey, Monmouth County, Union County, Somerset County, Essex County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Essex County, Hudson County and Bergen County. If you have been arrested, charged or indicted for a Terroristic Threat, the lawyers at our law office will explore all of your defenses and develop a plan and strategy to defend you. A criminal lawyer is available to speak to you immediately.