Our country’s First Amendment grants the right to free speech to all citizens. Free speech, however, does not include threats of violence. You are not covered by the first amendment and can be prosecuted under Georgia law if you threaten to harm someone or many people.
In early 2019, two students from Otwell and North Forsyth Middle School made threats of violence against their school and themselves either in person or via text messages. The Forsyth County Sherriff’s office took the students into custody, and both were charged with terroristic threats. The students were remanded into the custody of the juvenile court system.
What does Georgia law say about threats of violence?
Under O.C.G.A. §16-11-37(b), a person commits the criminal charge of Terroristic Threats in Georgia when he or she threatens to kill or physically harm someone else. Depending on the nature of the threat, the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, if you tell someone you are going to punch him or her, it is a misdemeanor. If you threaten to cause the death of someone, then it is a felony.
Do the circumstances of the threat matter?
Georgia law, under O.C.G.A §16-11-37, defines a terrorist threat as when someone threatens to commit a crime of violence, to release a hazardous substance, or burn or damage any property with the purpose of terrorizing another. Causing people to evacuate a building, place of assembly, or public transportation area, or causing severe public inconvenience in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience is also considered a terrorist threat.
The threat must be communicated. It does not matter if the threat is by phone, on the Internet, or in person.
The threat must make people feel they are in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.
Consequences of a Terroristic Threat indictment
In Georgia, a misdemeanor Terroristic Threat indictment can result in fines, mandatory classes, probation periods, community service, and criminal history.
A Felony Terroristic Threat indictment can result in one to five years in prison, hefty fines, and a criminal history as a convicted felon.
A criminal history of terroristic threats can follow you for the rest of your life. It can negatively affect employment opportunities, driving privileges, college admissions, and more.
Tyler Moffitt is a Family Law and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices Carrollton, LaGrange, and Columbus, GA. He graduated from John Marshall Law School, and has been practicing for several years now. Tyler Moffitt takes great honor in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.