If you are anything like me, you may watch the news or read the headlines and wonder, “What in the World is going on?”

There are mass shootings, confrontations between police and the community, and people preaching hate daily.

This is not a time for “jokes.” 

Police, and the community as a whole, are on high alert for threats of violence.  How many times have you seen someone share a post where they:

  • Displayed their firearms;
  • Stated “come and take it.”
  • “I hope (insert any name or group) dies.” Or
  • Pointed a gun at a representative of something they disliked.

Social media posts or texts ranting and “blowing off steam” can be construed as a threat. You may share a post about an emotion you are feeling at that moment and a couple hours later you are answering the door to police that have been called because you are making threats on social media. 

Is this freedom of speech or is this a crime?

In Texas, your post may be an assault by threat and you could be arrested. You may be charged with assault by threat when you intentionally, or knowingly, threaten another with imminent bodily injury. This charge can increase from a misdemeanor to a felony if the person, or group, you threaten is a family member or law enforcement. Charges can increase if you have previously been charged with assault.

You may argue that it is your right to free speech to share your frustrations and how you feel.  You may tell the Court or police that you were not threatening anyone directly and there was no one there when you made those statements.  However, in Texas, if you place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury you can be charged with terroristic threat. If your threatening text or posts cause a school, building, or other public place to be evacuated you can be charged with terroristic threat.  It may not be a defense that you were not at the location or you were alone at the time you made the threat.

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and text messages are not private. They are public and everything that is posted can be seen by many in a matter of seconds. Whatever is seen can be captured, saved, and sent to the police as evidence against you. I cannot stress this enough.

Defensive strategies for charges of terroristic threat or assault by threat.

If you are facing these charges, contact an attorney immediately. Statements you make to police when the case is being investigated can be used against you. You may try to explain that you did not mean any harm, but this statement alone is an admission you made the post.  You may, unintentionally, confess to a crime.  Contact an attorney before you make any statements.

Your attorney will begin developing an effective strategy for your case that may include:

  • Your previous criminal history or lack of criminal history;
  • Whether or not you own a weapon;
  • Have you made threats like this in the past;
  • Your other posts that provide context to this post; and
  • Other witnesses to your state of mind at the time.

Many times these charges arise when someone was mad and popped off.  They are blowing off steam or making a bad joke. However, people reading these posts or texts do not know that.  These posts can be very scary for the community or intended victim. Police will respond and will investigate these cases seriously to prevent future violent crimes.

At the Law Office of Elizabeth D Whited we will be your voice during these times. We provide free consultations to discuss your case or the pending investigation.