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What is a 'terroristic threat' in Massachusetts?

Ever since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, many states, including Massachusetts, have passed laws making "terroristic threats" a crime. Prior to passage of such laws, the actual use of guns, explosives and biological agents was covered by the general criminal laws of the states. Now, however, the making of threats to cause violence, whether or not the violence actually occurs, is a serious felony.

The crime of "terroristic threat" is defined as the willful communication of a threat (1) that a rifle, machine gun, an explosive or incendiary device, a dangerous biologic agent or any of several other substances capable of causing death or serious bodily injury is present or will be used at a specified place or location; or (2) that an aircraft, ship or common carrier will be hijacked, thereby causing anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort.

The crucial element of the crime is the making of the threat, not the actual commission of an act of terrorism. Moreover, a person can be convicted of making terroristic threats indirectly by causing another person to do so. The penalty for the crime is imprisonment for up to 20 years in the state prison or in the house of correction for six months to two-and-a-half years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or by a combination of imprisonment and fine. If the defendant is found guilty, the court is also required to conduct a hearing to determine losses suffered by the institution or entity who suffered loss because of the threat. The defendant can be ordered to make restitution.

Terroristic threats constitute a very serious criminal offense. Anyone facing such charges might find significant benefit in consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on the facts and law of the case and the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or acquittal.

Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, General Laws "Section 269.14," accessed on Feb. 3, 2018

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