Florida law makes it a crime to engage in threats of harm to another, whether orally or in writing. These types of threats are treated very seriously. They are second degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. There need not have been any harm inflicted for a criminal threat to be prosecuted. If you are facing such charges, you must be prepared to assert a strong defense.

In Florida, there are two types of criminal threats:

  • Threats to kill or do bodily harm — These are threats against someone else’s life or safety, made intentionally or maliciously with the intent to cause fear or harm. These types of threats may be made orally, in writing or through electronic communications like social media posts.
  • Written threats — These are either threats to kill or harm someone or threats to engage in a mass shooting or terrorist act. They must be made in writing, which can include email or text messages.

In both cases, an individual who engages in criminal threats must be aware they are doing so and must have so intended. An accidental threat would not satisfy the statute. For this reason, one of the key defenses to criminal threats is that the defendant did not intend to threaten the victim or to cause them fear. The defendant can argue that the threat was intended as a joke or was merely an expression of anger or frustration.

Another avenue of defense is that the defendant never intended for the threat to actually be received by another person. For example, a defendant may be writing a personal story or journal entry that was never meant to be shared and or to cause fear or harm to another.

Another possible defense to criminal threats is to show that the language used was too ambiguous to constitute an actual threat or that it would be unreasonable for an individual to actually have been in fear after hearing such language. Where the communication could be open to multiple interpretations, a defendant may be able to show that it did not meet the intent requirement.

Although prosecutors have a heavy burden of proving that a threat was real and not simply an expression of emotion, it is not sufficient to simply point out weaknesses in the prosecutor’s cases. If you are facing charges for criminal threats, an experienced criminal defense attorney can gather the evidence necessary to affirmatively disprove that a threat occurred.

At the Law Offices of Tad A. Yates, P.C. in Orlando, I represent Florida residents in a wide range of criminal matters. If you are facing any type of criminal charge, please call my office at 407-608-7777 or contact me online to arrange a free initial consultation.

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