TERRORISTIC THREATS (THREATS OF VIOLENCE)
The Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute punishes anyone who “threatens, directly or indirectly, to commit any crime of violence with 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.
In order to convict someone under the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute, the state must prove that the defendant (1) threatened to commit a crime of violence; and (2) made that threat with either (a) specific intent to cause extreme fear in another, or (b) reckless disregard of the risk that it would have that effect.
THE MOST COMMONLY SEEN THREAT THAT LEADS TO A CHARGE OF TERRORISTIC THREATS IS A THREAT TO KILL SOMEONE.
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.
THE SPEAKER’S INTENT AND THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THE THREAT WAS MADE CAN BOTH BE A DEFENSE TO 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.”
“TRANSITORY ANGER” IS NOT FOUND IN THE MINNESOTA TERRORISTIC THREATS STATUTE, BUT IT IS A PART OF THE HISTORY OF THE CRIME OF TERRORISTIC THREATS IN MINNESOTA.
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.
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.