Some people assume that making a threat against someone isn’t a crime unless they follow through with the threat. But that’s not the case. There are several statutes in the state of Florida that prohibit making threats toward others. If you are charged with making criminal threats, it’s in your best interest to speak to a Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options.

But for now, it’s important to understand when you could be charged with this crime and what penalties you could face if you are convicted. Keep reading to learn about the crime of making threats in the state of Florida.

Is It Illegal to Make Written Threats in Florida?

Florida law states that it is illegal to make a written threat to kill someone, cause bodily injury to someone,  conduct a mass shooting, or commit an act of terrorism.

You can be charged with this crime if you make a threat to kill or injure someone in writing and send it to the person you are threatening or the family of the person you are threatening. The law states that the threat can be sent via letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication, and may be signed or anonymous.

You can also be charged with this crime if you put a threat to commit a mass shooting or act of terrorism in writing and make it viewable to others instead of sending it directly to someone. For example, if you post a threat to commit a mass shooting on social media, you could be charged with this crime since the threat is in writing and viewable to others.

It’s important to note that the law does not state that intent is required for this crime. This means the state does not need to prove that you intended on following through with the threat in order to convict you of making written threats. Simply proving that you put the threat in writing and sent it or made it viewable to others is enough to convict you of this crime.

Is Making Written Threats A Felony or Misdemeanor?

Making written threats is seen as a serious crime in the state of Florida, which is why it is classified as a felony of the second degree. If you are convicted of a second degree felony, you could face up to 15 years in prison in addition to substantial fines.

What Other Laws Govern Criminal Threats in Florida?

As its name suggests, the law prohibiting written threats deals solely with threats that are in writing. But this does not mean that you won’t face legal trouble for making verbal threats toward someone.

You can be charged with stalking if you willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harass or cyberstalk another person. The law defines “harass” as engaging in conduct that causes another person substantial emotional distress. The law defines “cyberstalk” as engaging in conduct to electronically communicate words, images, or language directed at a specific person that causes that person substantial emotional distress. In other words, if you repeatedly, willfully, and maliciously make threats toward someone, electronically or through other means, you could be charged with stalking.

This crime becomes aggravated stalking if you also make a credible threat with the intent to make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of a family member.

The crime of stalking is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree. If you are convicted of this crime, you could face up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. But the crime of aggravated stalking is classified as a felony of the third degree. If you are convicted of aggravated stalking, you could face up to 5 years in prison in addition to up to $5,000 in fines.

How Can An Attorney Fight Criminal Threat Charges?

An arrest doesn’t always lead to a conviction in criminal threat cases. There are a number of defense strategies that may be used to fight criminal threat charges.

The exact defense strategy that is used will depend on the nature of your case. But in general, here are some of the most common defense strategies used to beat criminal threat charges:

  • The written threat was sent unintentionally.
  • The defendant did not write or compose the written threat.
  • The threat does not propose killing or causing bodily injury to the victim.
  • The threat was not written in a location where others could view it.
  • The threats are not considered harassment since they did not cause the victim substantial emotional distress.
  • The threats are not considered harassment or cyberstalking since they were not made repeatedly or maliciously.
  • The threat was not credible, so the defendant did not commit aggravated stalking.
  • The defendant is being falsely accused.
  • The threat was not sent to the target of the threat or the target of the threat’s family.

These are some of the many strategies that your attorney may consider using to reach the best possible outcome in your case. Implementing these strategies may help you avoid a conviction or get your charges reduced or dismissed. Discuss your legal options—and the possible outcomes to your case—with a criminal defense attorney today. 

Seek Legal Representation From An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Have you been accused of making criminal threats? If you are facing charges for this crime, seek legal representation from the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys has helped over 15,000 clients protect their rights and fight their criminal charges. Now, let us put our extensive legal resources, knowledge, and experience to work for you.

We will work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.