Terroristic Threats in Minnesota

Terrorism is not treated lightly in the Minnesota criminal justice system. It has a broad definition in Minnesota, including both personal and public threats and acts. Personal threats of substantial bodily harm to another can be classified as terroristic threats in certain contexts. Threats with the intent of causing public disorder are certainly terroristic, and carry a heavier penalty than most personal threats. If a court finds that any felony was committed with the intent to further terrorism, the penalty for the underlying felony can be increased by fifty percent. Also, a murder is automatically promoted to first degree murder if the court finds an intent to further terrorism. Below are some relevant terrorism crimes in Minnesota.

Terroristic Threats

One of the most devastating crimes to have on your record is terroristic threats, because it can be very difficult to find employment afterward. There are three definitions of this crime according to Minn. Stat. 609.713:

  1. Threatening to commit a violent crime with the purpose to, or reckless disregard of terrorizing another or causing an evacuation of a building, bus or train, or any other place in which the threat causes public inconvenience.
  2. Telling someone that explosives or any incendiary devices are present at a named location. This must be done with the purpose to, or reckless disregard of, terrorizing another.
  3. Displaying or brandishing a replica firearm or BB gun in a threatening manner.

A threat to commit a violent crime has a broad definition, as violent crimes are any acts that could result in substantial bodily harm to another. An example of a threat to commit a violent crime could be yelling at your neighbor to turn down his music or you’ll kill him. Of course, the threat must be taken to be substantial enough to cause extreme fear.
Examples of terroristic threats include getting drunk at a bar and telling a friend that you are going to your previous workplace with guns to kill someone, State v. Bjergum, 771 N.W.2d 53 (Minn. App., 2009), and placing dead animals and animal parts at a victim’s house and dumping oil and blood on houses, State v. Murphy, 545 N.W. 2d 909 (Minn., 1996). An example of using an incendiary device as a terroristic threat is wrapping a wooden cross in a cloth soaked in flammable liquid, In re Welfare of C.P.K, 615 N.W.2d 832, (Ct. App. Minn., 2000).

Terroristic Threats as Domestic Abuse

Minnesota’s domestic violence statute (Minn. Stat. 518B.01) allows for an order for protection if a family member or household member has committed a terroristic threat against them. This includes the threat to commit a violent crime (one which cause substantial bodily harm). The evidence of the threat is usually an affidavit, made under oath, by the victim, the victim’s family member, or a household member.

An example of terroristic threats as domestic abuse include pushing, knocking items from hands and threatening to hurt a family member, State v. Garcia, A10-1159, (Minn. App. 2011).

Felonies with the Intent to Further Terrorism

Minnesota criminal law increases the penalty for any felony by 50% if the premeditated intent was to further terrorism (Minn. Stat. 609.714). The intent to further terrorism is the intent to:

  1. terrorize, intimidate, or coerce a considerable number of members of the public in addition to the direct victims of the act; and
  2. significantly disrupt or interfere with the lawful exercise, operation, or conduct of government, lawful commerce, or the right of lawful assembly.

There is another example of terroristic intent as an aggravating factor in the Minnesota criminal code: a murder which takes place without regard for human life is usually third degree murder, but if it occurs while committing, conspiring or attempting to commit a felony crime to further terrorism, then it is first degree murder. Even for equal criminal acts, perpetrators with terroristic intent receive with a much greater penalty than those without it.

-Lucas Spaeth

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