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The offense of terroristic threats seems to be becoming more and more common in New Jersey. Whether the charge is the result of a threat to kill, commit violence or engage in another act likely to terrorize another person, a conviction results in a felony that carries penalties that are severe. It is therefore particularly important for an individual to retain a knowledgeable and experienced NJ criminal defense attorney if they have been arrested, charged and/or indicted for making a terroristic threat. The lawyers at our firm are well suited to defend you in this role.
We are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall—one of the state’s largest firms specializing in the defense of those accused of violating the criminal code. Our rare and impressive credentials for handling your terroristic threat case include:
- Over 200 years of combined experience defending clients like you in New Jersey
- A team of 10 lawyers whose practice is limited to criminal and other violations
- Former county prosecutors who have served at the highest levels such as Director of Major Crimes, the Drug Task Force, Special Operations and even the entire Trial Division of an office
- Former municipal prosecutors in more than 25 NJ towns
- Members who are among less than 2% that have been Certified by the Supreme Court as Criminal Trial Attorneys
- A proven track record of acquittals, dismissals and other favorable outcomes on behalf of clients arrested for terroristic threats
We certainly know what you are going through as accomplished litigators who have been helping individuals faced with terroristic threat, aggravated assault, domestic violence and related charges. If you are in the process of being charged, were already arrested or awaiting an indictment, a lawyer with the know-how to assist you is available immediately for a free consultation. Call us at 1-877-534-7338 to speak to an attorney now.
New Jersey Terroristic Threat Law
The New Jersey Terroristic Threats Law is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 and provides as follows:
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.
Basics of a New Jersey Terroristic Threat Offense
Terroristic threats can arise in a wide range of contexts although the domestic violence setting is probably encountered most often. A terroristic threat can arise with a c0-workers, neighbor, current and former spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends, students or a virtually endless number of other ways. All that is required is a threat of violence against another person whether it is made verbally, in a text or email, or through a third party.
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 it is made and reasonably resulted in 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 also be kept in mind that the terroristic threat law requires a “serious” threat and not just an expression of anger. 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 being serious enough to constitute 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.
When the threat is to kill someone in violation of 2C:12-3, the law requires that the accused possess 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).
Elements Of Proof
There are three material elements that the prosecutor must establish, beyond reasonable doubt, in order to secure a conviction for a terroristic threat under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3. The state must prove that:
- The accused made a threat;
- The threat was to commit an offense of violence or to kill; and
- 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.
A more detailed discussion of the elements of proof can be found in the New Jersey Model Jury Charge for Terroristic Threats.
NJ Terroristic Threat Penalties
An individual can be charged with either a third degree crime or second degree crime for a terroristic threat. The truth is, however, that a second degree terroristic threat is extremely rare because it only arises if the violation is committed during a period of national, state or county emergency. The overwhelming number of cases therefore involve a third degree terroristic threat charge. The headings below set forth the penalties for each grade of this offense.
- Third Degree Crime. An individual is exposed to a fine of up to $15,000 and 0-5 years in state prison upon conviction for a third degree crime for making a terroristic threat.
- Second Degree Crime. The maximum fine is $150,000 and the range of imprisonment is 5-10 years for a second degree offense.
There are additional consequences when the victim of a terroristic threat is someone protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”) of 1991. A restraining order may be issued against the accused when this is the case. This relief precludes any contact between the victim and the accused and also results in parallel proceedings in Family Court to determine whether or not the restraints should become final and permanent.
Pretrial Intervention To Avoid A Conviction
Pretrial Intervention, which is also referred to as PTI, is a program designed to allow a first time offender to avoid a criminal conviction and associated penalties. Third and fourth degree crimes are eligible for diversion under this program, which typically requires one year of probation. The original terroristic threat complaint or indictment is dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary period of PTI. It must be kept in mind, however, that eligibility does not guarantee that an individual is admitted into the program since prosecutor objection can result in rejection from Pretrial Intervention. Retaining an experienced attorney can go a long way in avoiding such a pitfall.
Contact Our New Jersey Terroristic Threat Lawyers For Immediate Assistance
An attorney at our firm is certainly well equipped to defend your terroristic threat case irrespective of where it is pending in New Jersey. Our team of former prosecutors and talented defense lawyers have extensive experience representing individuals in counties throughout the state. To speak to a lawyer about the terroristic threat charge that was issued against you, call 1-877-534-7338. One of the attorneys will be more than happy to conduct a comprehensive review of the facts of your case and advise you of the best strategy for averting a guilty plea or finding.