This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Mueller, Hinds and Associates, Chtd. immediately at (702) 382-1200. This information is valid as of August 25, 2017.
The First Amendment protects everyone’s right to freedom of speech and prevents legislatures from making laws that penalize free speech. That means that you have the right to dissent and criticize the government without the fear of going to prison. However, the right to free speech does not mean that all speech is protected.
There are many instances where speech is punishable or grounds for a civil lawsuit – lying under oath or committing perjury, spreading false information about a person or defamation and defrauding people by misrepresenting the value of goods or services.
One particular type of criminalized speech is in the news lately – making terrorist threats. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Toni Stickland, 18 years old, is facing charges of communicating a bomb threat and making terroristic threats on October 5, 2017. The allegation is that she sent a text message, “We shooting up your school tomorrow no one safe [sic],” which was then circulated on social media. Police do not believe Strickland intended to carry out the threat and could not point to a motive other than “bad judgment”, she was arrested and a preliminary hearing is set for October 9, 2017.
What is a Terroristic Threat in Nevada
Under section 202.448, it is a category B felony carrying between 2 and twenty years to do the following:
1. A person shall not, through the use of any means of oral, written or electronic communication, knowingly make any threat or convey any false information concerning an act of terrorism or the presence, development, manufacture, production, assemblage, transfer, transportation, acquisition, retention, storage, testing, possession, delivery, dispersion, release, discharge or use of any weapon of mass destruction, any biological agent, chemical agent, radioactive agent or other lethal agent or any toxin with the intent to:
(a) Injure, intimidate or alarm any person, whether or not any person is actually injured, intimidated or alarmed thereby;
(b) Cause panic or civil unrest, whether or not such panic or civil unrest actually occurs;
(c) Extort or profit thereby, whether or not the extortion is actually successful or any profit actually occurs; or
(d) Interfere with the operations of or cause economic or other damage to any person or any officer, agency, board, bureau, commission, department, division or other unit of federal, state or local government, whether or not such interference or damage actually occurs.
2. A person who violates any provision of subsection 1 is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 20 years, and maybe further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.
3. The provisions of this section do not apply to any act that is committed in a lawful manner and in the course of lawful business, event or activity.
Although this has been a law since 1999 with some revisions in 2003, 2005 and 2007, there are very few Nevada court cases that interpret this statute. In M.C. v. State (In re M.C.), 2015 Nev. Unpub. Lexis 646, 2015 WL 865320 (Nev. 2015) (NV SC case number 64839) (unpublished decision), the Nevada Supreme Court decided a case in a minor was found to be delinquent in the juvenile criminal justice system because he wrote on Facebook: “Killing spree by myself. I got four clips that hold seventeen and five hundred bulled. And I don’t give a fuck no more. [sic]” The police viewed the post, arrested M.C. and searched his house. M.C. was adjudicated delinquent because he was found to have made a terroristic threat with intent to alarm or intimidate others, cause panic or civil unrest and interfere with police operations.
The Nevada Supreme Court held that NRS 202.448 is a specific intent crime, meaning “the State must prove that a defendant made a threat subjectively intending to injure, intimidate, alarm, cause unrest or panic….”
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSE TO NRS 202.448, MAKING TERRORISTIC THREATS
There are a number of defenses to this charge:
1. The accused did not have the specific intent to cause alarm or panic or harm
2. The accused did not actually make the threat
3. The threat is not a threat, it was a fact and a warning
4. The threat was not a threat, it has some ambiguity that could be read both ways
Are you or a loved one charged with making terroristic threats? Contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Mueller Hinds & Associates for a free consultation.