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What are terroristic threats?

The perception amongst many in New York is that violent crimes are limited to those that involve actual physical confrontations between individuals. In reality, a violent crime can be one where no action was taken, yet great fear and intimidation was inferred. You are probably familiar with the age-old saying of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." In the eyes of the law, that statement is most definitely untrue. 

Per Section 490.20 of New York's Penal Code, you can be prosecuted for making terroristic threats. These are threats intended to cause the reasonable fear or expectation that terrorist actions are imminent. In the context of this law, terrorist actions are defined as: 

  • Intimidating or coercing a civilian population
  • Influencing the policy of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion
  • Affecting the action of a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping

As you can see, these actions differ from the more commonly city offenses of inciting panic by yelling fire in a theater. Terroristic threats must be detailed in their description and targeted at a very specific audience. Such a charge could leave you facing a Class D felony. 

The common defense to accusations of making threats is that you never intended to follow up on them. However, in the case of terroristic threats, you can be found guilty of making them even if you show that you never did intend on carrying them out. Instead, challenging such allegations will likely come down to you showing that any statement you are accused of making was not targeted at a particular individual or group and this was taken out of context. 

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Law Office Of Scott G. Cerbin, Esq., PLLC
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Law office of Scott G. Cerbin ESQ., PLLC