Criminal Threats in Florida Can Result in Felony Charges

A series of Florida cases recently have resulted in major criminal charges for making threats.
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People tend to underestimate the kind of trouble words can get us into. Many people also overestimate their own anonymity in this digital age. Anonymous threats are often traced using phone records, computer IP addresses and other methods.

Our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers know there are several statutes governing threats, and the state tends to take such actions quite seriously.

One of those is Florida Statute 836.10, which governs written threats to kill or do bodily injury. This law states that any person who writes, composes and then sends any message – anonymous or otherwise – threatening to kill or do bodily injury to a person or family member of another person is guilty of a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Even if a threat doesn’t specifically threaten death or injury, a person could be charged under Florida Statute 784.048, which prohibits harassment, stalking or cyberstalking. A violation of this statute is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. However, if the individual violates this statute and makes a threat with the intent to place that person in “reasonable fear” of death or bodily injury to themselves or someone close to them, the crime is bumped up to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

In one recent case, a West Palm Beach man was charged with writing a threat to kill or injure, despite the fact that he never explicitly said, “I will kill you.” The alleged threat was directed toward his ex-wife. He texted her a photograph of himself holding a firearm. He sarcastically thanked her for answering her phone, said he’d be headed to prison soon and told her to “wait and watch. Maybe this afternoon. Got my new gun. See you guys soon.” He then ended his message with an indication he would be at her home, signed with a smiling face emoticon.

On the surface, without knowing the context, those words alone might not appear threatening. Yet when police responded to the woman’s complaint, her ex-husband reportedly revealed to them that it was a “scare tactic.” Such an admission may be enough for prosecutors to secure a conviction – which is yet another example of why you should never talk to police without your attorney if you are suspected of a crime.

In another recent case, a man from Boynton Beach was arrested for aggravated stalking and obscene telephone communication after allegedly threatening to kill a co-worker’s family. According to police, the music industry business relationship had ended on a sour note. The suspect allegedly told another female co-worker that he was upset with the man for not paying $500 owed to him. He told the woman he knew where this man lived and he planned to shot him and his family members. He also warned the woman she should get protection.

He later told police he wasn’t serious, but he couldn’t remember the entire communication because at times he “blacked out” due to anger.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Police: Man sent ex-wife death threats, photo of himself with gun, July 26, 2013, By Brittany Shammas, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Arrested Florida Unlicensed Contractors Should Seek Immediate Legal Counsel, June 20, 2013, West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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