Have you Been Charged with Terroristic Threats in Georgia?
If you or a loved one has been accused of terroristic threats in Georgia, you need legal representation immediately. This is a serious charge that will affect your future, so there is no time to waste. Lawson and Berry are Georgia's premier criminal defense firm and are ready to assist with your case. Our attorneys have decades of experience and will ensure you receive the best defense possible.
Georgia Law on Terroristic Threats
O.C.G.A. §16-11-37(b) states that a person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to:
- Commit any crime of violence;
- Release any hazardous substance; or
- Burn or damage property.
The terroristic threat shall be made:
- With the purpose of terrorizing another;
- With the purpose of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation;
- With the purpose of otherwise causing serious public inconvenience; or
- In reckless disregard of the risk of causing the terror, evacuation, or inconvenience.
Georgia Case Law
The crime of terroristic threats has been completed as soon as the communication of threat is done to terrorize another. Wilson v. State, 151 Ga. App. 501, (1979). However, when there is no direct evidence that the threats were made for the purpose of terrorizing another, the jury may infer such a purpose from circumstances surrounding the threats. Jordan v. State, 214 Ga. App. 346, (1994).
In Harper v. State, the Court found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of terroristic threats. 337 Ga. App. 57, (2016). Harper was incarcerated at the Coweta County jail where he was placed in an isolation cell because of disciplinary problems. After multiple feces-smearing incidents, Harper said in front of other officers that he was going to go their house, break in, and kill the officers and their families. He repeated this threat another time. During the trial, Harper argued that a reasonable person would not have believed his words to be a real threat and that there was no evidence he uttered the threats with the purpose of terrorizing the victims. However, the court found that the defendant intended to terrorize the police officers and therefore, he was convicted of terroristic threats.
What Has to be Proven to be Convicted
To be convicted of terroristic threats in Georgia, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves showing that a threat was communicated to the victim with the intent to terrorize or the circumstances surrounding the threat were sufficient to find the threats were made for such a purpose.
Penalty for Terroristic Threats in Georgia
A person convicted of terroristic threat will be punished as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors carry the consequences of up to one year in jail or up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
However, if the threat suggested the death of the threatened individual, the person convicted will be guilty of a felony and will be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000, a prison term between one and five years, or both.
The penalty will be heightened to a fine not to exceed $50,000, prison term between five and twenty years, or both if the threat is made with the intent to retaliate against any person or threaten any person from:
- Attending a judicial or administrative proceeding as a witness, attorney, judge, clerk of court, deputy clerk of court, court reporter, community supervision officer, probation officer, or other party or producing any record, document, or another object in a judicial or official proceeding; or
- Providing to a law enforcement officer, community supervision officer, probation officer, prosecuting attorney, or judge any information relating to the commission or possible commission of an offense.
The threats were not made for the purpose of terrorizing the victim: If a reasonable person would not have been terrorized by the words and evidence surrounding the incident supported this, that could be a defense.
The victim's testimony was uncorroborated: A person cannot be convicted of terroristic threats if the only person that can verify the testimony was the victim.
What are Not Defenses
I was incapable of acting on my words: Even if the threat is unable to be accomplished because the defendant is incarcerated or for another reason, the Court will most likely still find the defendant guilty of terroristic threats.
I was mentally ill at the time: While insanity is a defense in some cases, it may not be a defense if the defendant did not plead it as an affirmative defense. There must be sufficient evidence to prove the defendant was insane at the time the threats were made and that can be difficult to prove.
There wasn't enough evidence to corroborate the victim's testimony: While there has to be additional evidence other than the victim to support their testimony, the Court has found that even slight evidence will be sufficient.
Choosing a knowledgeable Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is of the utmost importance. It could determine whether you win or lose your case. Our attorneys have decades of criminal experience that is crucial to obtaining a favorable outcome. They can answer all of your questions and give you sound advice concerning your case. Call us today to schedule a free evaluation. A charge is not the same as a conviction so call us now!