Students Face Terroristic Threat Charges for Comments on Bus and Social Media
Two incidents in Ocean County near the end of the 2022 school year illustrate New Jersey law enforcement’s inclination toward investigating and prosecuting alleged terroristic threats among school students, even if the accused is a minor.
In May, a student at Southern Regional Middle School, in Stafford Township, was charged with making terroristic threats using social media. Little information was reported about this incident because the alleged perpetrator was a minor, but police said the student threatened violence against the school via social media.
The second incident, in early June, also occurred in Stafford Township. Police arrested an 18-year-old Southern Regional High School student for threatening to bring an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to school and shoot two 15-year-old girls. The threat allegedly occurred on a bus ride home from school. The girls reported the incident, with one saying that the threat made her afraid to go to school and the second girl stating that she had seen a photo of the 18-year-old posing with a handgun online.
Authorities charged both students with the crime of making terroristic threats. In New Jersey, a person can be convicted of this offense if prosecutors can prove these three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant threatened to kill another person.
- The threat was made with the purpose of putting the person in imminent fear of death.
- The threat was made under circumstances which reasonably caused the person to believe that the threat was likely to be carried out.
Note that the statute is not addressed to terrorism in the post-9/11 sense of the term, namely mass attacks on civilian targets. Rather, it penalizes death threats made between private individuals. The essence of the crime is that the threat was intentional and the threatened action was perceived by the victim as realistically possible. A jury examines all the circumstances surrounding the incident to decide whether a threat was real enough to satisfy the statute. Irrational outbursts and temper tantrums in which threats are shouted will not normally be considered illegal.
Threatening death is a third-degree offense, a conviction of which can mean three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. In certain circumstances, a juvenile may be tried as an adult for the crime. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential if you or a family member is charged under the statute.
At the Law Offices of David Jay Glassman, we vigorously defend clients against terroristic threat charges. We’ll work to build defenses that cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case. When appropriate, we’ll do our best to negotiate a plea deal that avoids excessive punishment. To schedule a consultation with our defense attorney, please call 866-221-1270 or contact us online. We have offices in Marlton, New Brunswick, Newark and Hackensack and represent clients across New Jersey.