As you may expect, making a bomb threat in Pennsylvania is a serious matter, and authorities do not look upon those who make those type of threats favorably. In fact, any bomb threat or threat of violence falls into the category of “terroristic threats.” These threats carry stiff penalties, and if you face them, you need to know what you are up against.
Obviously, the term “terroristic threats” is rather ambiguous and can cover a wide range of potential acts. Because the charge can be both vague and sometimes overused by authorities, it is important to have the experienced, savvy criminal defense attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford on your side to guide you through this often confusing and scary time.
How Are Bomb Threats Classified Under Pennsylvania Law?
Under Pennsylvania law, a bomb threat is considered a terroristic threat. As such, terroristic threats are codified as any of the following:
- Committing any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another
- Causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation
- Causing terror or serious public inconvenience with reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience
Moreover, the threat can either be direct, such as verbally making a threat, or indirect, such as cryptically posting a threatening message via social media. Whether the threat is direct or indirect, if it meets the other two requirements of causing an evacuation of a building or otherwise causing panic in a public place, you will likely be at least arrested and questioned for making terroristic threats.
What Are the Punishments for a Bomb Threat Charge in Pennsylvania?
Generally, bomb or terroristic threats are grouped in two levels, with most threats being charged as first-degree misdemeanors. The charge rises to a third-degree felony if the threat causes a building or public area evacuation and causes a disruption of the area’s operation.
In Pennsylvania, a first-degree misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
In addition, the person charged with making a terroristic threat that caused an evacuation will have to pay restitution that covers the cost of the evacuation and the response from emergency crews.
How Are Bomb Threat Charges Defended?
Like any criminal charge, the best defense for a bomb threat is to not commit it in the first place. However, if you find yourself charged with making a terroristic threat, it is extremely important to seek help with one of our attorneys right away. This is because the statute is written and enforced in such a way that allows the authorities to tack on charges that do not fit the law as written. Because a terroristic threat is vague, situations involving harmless remarks, emails, or messages could be misunderstood as a threat. Other common defense strategies include:
- Lack of compelling evidence
- Mistaken identity
- Freedom of speech
While these defenses are common, it is important to remember that the prosecution has the burden to provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They will have to provide credible witnesses if the threat was verbal or must provide enough corroborating evidence to support the needed criminal intent. Furthermore, a verbal threat means hearsay rules of evidence apply, so some important evidence would not be admitted at trial. Lastly, if the threat was written or typed, the prosecution would have to prove that it was you that actually wrote the threat.
Work With Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or a loved one was arrested for making a terrorist threat or bomb threat in the Montgomery or Bucks County area, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford will fiercely defend you against the serious penalties associated with a terroristic threat conviction. For over 65 years, our firm has protected the rights of clients accused of making terroristic threats. Call us today at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our contact form to let our firm fight for you.