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What Constitutes a Terrorist Threat in Tennessee?

June 16, 2016

With the recent incidents of homegrown terrorism here in the United States, it's a good idea to delve into what actions could be construed as a terrorist threat under Tennessee laws.

Five elements must be present to constitute a terroristic threat, including:

-- A willful threat to commit a dangerous crime causing serious bodily injuries or deaths is made via any medium.

-- This threat is specifically intended to be interpreted as a threat. It is not necessary for a defendant to intend to follow through or even have the opportunity and means to do so.

-- Threats must be "unequivocal, unconditional, and specific," conveying "gravity of purpose and immediate prospect of execution."

-- Threats must cause fear in a victim.

-- The victim's fear has to be reasonable.

Residents may be quite surprised to learn that a person does not actually have to do anything to be charged with making a terroristic threat, nor does he or she have to have the means to carry out a threat. To be charged with terrorism, all one has to do in Tennessee is make the threat.

One Tennessee man, frustrated over the restrictions in place in a child custody case, made statements in anger that he intended to return to the child's school with an AK-47 and kill staff members. In 2013, he was subsequently arrested, convicted of attempted terrorism and given a 16-year sentence in the state prison.

For the Tennessee man noted above, justice was eventually meted out when an appeals court reversed the trial court's decision last year. Other facing similar charges should avail themselves of a vociferous criminal defense to work to avoid a conviction.

Source: On the Mark, "Injustice in Tennessee: “Making a Terrorist Threat”," Mark Stoval, accessed June 17, 2016