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The Minnesota terroristic threats statute punishes anyone who “threatens, directly or indirectly, to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror.”

The offense is a felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.  

If you are facing a terroristic threat charge or know somebody that is, contact the experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka today.

A Terroristic Threat Conviction in Minnesota

In order to convict someone under the Minnesota terroristic threats statute, the state must prove that the defendant:

  • Threatened to commit a crime of violence; and
  • Made that threat with either
    • Specific intent to cause extreme fear in another, or
    • Reckless disregard of the risk that it would have that effect.
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During an argument – domestic or otherwise – if a person tells someone, “I’m going to kill you,” or “You make me so mad, I could kill you sometimes,” or any type of similar threat to commit a crime of violence, the speaker will almost certainly face a charge of terroristic threats under the Minnesota terroristic threats statute.

Speaker’s Intent and Defense Charges of Terroristic Threats

The speakers’ intent and the context in which the threat was made can be both a defense against a charge of terroristic threats.

As noted above, the state has to prove that the speaker made the threat with either a specific intent to cause extreme fear in another or with reckless disregard of the risk of causing extreme fear in another.

The context in which the threat was made is a factor in determining the speaker’s intent.

In State v. Balster, the Minnesota Court of Appeals noted that the context in which it is uttered determines whether the speaker intends the literal meaning or a harmless expression of anger, frustration, or annoyance. This is sometimes referred to as “transitory anger.”


Prior cases have concluded that the Minnesota terroristic threats statute is designed to punish threats that are “more serious than would be covered by petty offenses like disorderly conduct or breach of the peace.”

The statute is not intended to apply to “the kind of verbal threat which expresses transitory anger rather than [the] settled purpose to carry out the threat or to terrorize the other person.”

Most terroristic threats charges will turn on whether the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant made the threat with the required intent to make the subject of the threat extremely fearful.  

The defendant, through his or her lawyer, would most certainly urge the jury that the speaker’s threat was a harmless expression of anger, frustration, or annoyance.

Threats of Violence Charges Dismissed

State Dismisses Threats of Violence Charge

THE FACTS: Client was charged in felony Threats of Violence, also known as Terroristic Threats, and Carrying a Pistol in Public While Intoxicated in Ramsey County. The charges stemmed from an alleged altercation between defense attorney John Arechigo’s client and another individual in downtown St. Paul. The complainant called police and reported that the client pulled a gun on him and threatened to kill him. The client adamantly denied the complainant’s version of the events, instead insisting that the individual had approached the client, verbally accosted the client, and threatened the client. The client had a permit to carry a concealed firearm and was carrying a pistol on his person at the time of the incident. The client insisted he had only pulled his firearm from its holster as a show of self-defense.

St. Paul Police responded to the scene. Several officers were involved, and all were wearing body cams. The officers interviewed a number of individuals, including the reporting party, the client, and a handful of bystanders. The bystanders largely supported the client’s version of events. In a rush to charge the client, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office determined the reporting party was credible enough to rely on in bringing a Terroristic Threats charge against the client.

THE DEFENSE: Defense lawyer John Arechigo promptly secured the client’s release from jail and began tracking down the body cam footage from the incident. The defense also looked into the reporting party’s history and discovered the individual had a lengthy criminal history, including an active assault warrant. The Ramsey County Attorney failed to look into the credibility of the reporting party prior to filing the serious felony charge of Threats of Violence. The remaining investigation into the incident, including a review of the body cam footage, revealed the reporting party’s version of the event was simply unbelievable. The client’s version of the event proved to be much more believable.

THE RESULT: The county attorney recognized the credibility issues of the reporting party and ultimately dismissed the Threats of Violence charge.


Contact our Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation if you or someone you know if facing a charge under the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute.  

We’ve had terroristic threats charges dismissed for clients. We know how to defend against this charge.

Author Photo

John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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