Terroristic Threats

The offense of terroristic threats  is penalized under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3. The text of the New Jersey terroristic threats statute can be found in its entirety at the end of this article.

The statute is broken into two subsections. Subsection a. contemplates an individual threatening to commit a crime of violence against  another with the purpose to terrorize that individual. The statute did not intend for individuals to be prosecuted under this provision for episodes of fleeting or transitory anger. Rather, the contemplated behavior must have a more sinister, tangible, grave, believable, psychological impact. The reason I explain the offense under this section in these terms is to differentiate this offense from certain disorderly persons offenses such as harassment. In most prosecutions, a defendant charged with terroristic threats will be facing a crime of the third degree. Under this section the court will typically take into account certain factors such as:

  • The seriousness of the threat
  • the immediacy of the threat, or the ability of the accused to act upon it quickly
  • whether an ordinary person in the alleged victim’s position would feel threatened

Take note that a threat to commit a disorderly persons offense will not be sufficient to support a charge under this section.

Subsection b. of the terroristic threats statute deals with threats to kill. The case law interpreting this section has construed this provision to require that an ordinary hearer of such a threat  would actually believe that death was a possibility. It is not required that the hearer actually be scared. In other words, the threat would cause a reasonable person to fear death. In a prosecution for terroristic threats in NJ under this section, many of the same factors bullet pointed above will be contemplated by the court.

As a NJ criminal defense lawyer and domestic violence attorney, it is often the case that my client may be facing a terroristic threats offense as a result of a domestic violence dispute. Given the nature of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim, the court will go a little further in determining what a reasonable person hearing the threat means in this circumstance. Thus, the history of the relationship between the a husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend may be examined for past instances of domestic abuse to determine what is reasonable for a someone similarly situated to the plaintiff.

Terroristic threats is most frequently charged as third degree indictable or felony offense. If convicted, the defendant could face between three and five years in prison. Jail time is a real possibility and a conviction appears on a criminal record  as “Terroristic Threats.” Imagine the difficulty you may encounter attempting to explain that to a future employer.

Terroristic threats can be charged as a second degree crime. The statute below is clear regarding the circumstances where this may result. This article does not delve into this variety given the infrequency with which it is charged. In any event, the statute is clear.

If you have been arrested and charged with this offense, you should not hesitate to call a terroristic threats attorney for a free consultation. I will take the time to answer your questions and discuss the various defense strategies that may be employed. Even in cases where there are no legitimate defenses, I can frequently work out advantageous plea deals with the prosecutor to either reduce the charges or  get Pre-trial intervention to avoid a conviction

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.


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