Can A Person Be Arrested For Making Online Threats In Florida?
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently arrested a defendant travelling from South Carolina in Hillsborough County. The defendant, a civilian Air Force officer stationed in South Carolina, is accused of making online terroristic threats. The defendant allegedly made threats that he would die by suicide by cop or engage police in a stand-off. The defendant also made online threats that he would drive his vehicle into a hospital or access a military installation. He was apprehended by Orange County Police who transferred the case to the FDLE. It is not clear if the defendant has a prior history of mental health issues or what motivated him to make such threats. Can a person be arrested for making online threats in Tampa?
What Actions Constitute Written or Electronic Threats to Kill or Do Bodily Injury?
Florida Statute defines a terrorist threat as a written or electronically transmitted threat that indicates a propensity to kill, maim or cause bodily injury to another person. Written communication is not just a letter sent in the mail or something written down and hand delivered. It also includes any writings, posts, instant messages, status updates or graphics. It is illegal for anyone in the State of Florida to send or post language or writing that suggests their willingness to commit an act of terrorism. Fla. Stat. § 836.10 (2021).
What are the Penalties for these Offenses?
In Florida a defendant convicted of making a felony terrorist threat could serve up to 15 years in prison. Fla. Stat. § 775.082 (2019). A defendant may face additional charges depending on the circumstances of their case and other aggravating factors. This also includes minors who have made a threat against a school, teacher or student. In the instant case, the defendant is a civil service member with the U.S. Air Force. In all likelihood, even if the defendant is not convicted, he may face additional civil penalties or repercussions including the loss of his career and future prospects in the military or civilian setting. Police must take these threats seriously, they cannot be misconstrued as a joke, even if a defendant allegedly had no intent to carry out actions. Words do matter, and any words of a threatening nature are investigated, even if the writer believes they do not have an audience.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
If you or someone you know has been charged with making terroristic threats or online threats in Tampa, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If convicted, life as you know would change in more ways than you realize. Tampa criminal lawyer Bryant Scriven is a former federal prosecutor who understands what is at stake for his clients. He is dedicated to advocating for them when they need him most and ensuring their civil liberties are adhered to. Rest assured that Attorney Scriven is the right choice when you feel you have nowhere to turn. Call today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.