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Florida Law on Criminal Threats

In Florida, the definition of the term “threat” includes a statement that the speaker intends to use to communicate an expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.

To be a threat, the person making the communication must intentionally or knowingly communicate the threat and the listener must have a reasonable fear that the speaker intends to carry out the threat.

As a general rule, threats to kill or do bodily harm are not protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Florida law prohibits several types of threats including:

  • Section 790.162, F.S., prohibits threats with a destructive device which is ranked as a level five offense on the offense severity ranking chart;
  • Section 836.10, F.S., prohibits specified written threats to kill or to do bodily injury or to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism are ranked as a level six offense on the offense severity ranking chart.

Florida’s Law Against Threatening to Discharge Any Destructive Device

Florida law prohibits threatening to throw, project, place, or discharge any destructive device with intent to do bodily harm to any person or to do damage to any property of any person commits a second degree felony.

To prove an offense, the state is not required to show the defendant had the specific intent or the ability to carry out the threat.

Instead, the state must prove that the threat itself conveyed an intent to do bodily harm or to do property damage, regardless of the speaker’s actual intent or ability to carry out the threatened action.

Additionally, the state does not have to prove the existence of an actual destructive device.

If the state proves that the defendant threatened to throw, project, place, or discharge a destructive device, then it doesn’t matter whether the speaker had the actual ability to carry out the threat.

While Section 790.162, F.S., prohibits threats with a destructive device, the term destructive device does not encompass firearms. For this reason, the prohibition does not apply to a threat concerning a weapon or firearm.

In Planned Parenthood v. ACLA, 290 F.3d 1058, 1076-77 (9th Cir. 2002), the court held that a true threat is “a statement which, in the entire
context and under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would foresee the statement would be interpreted by those to whom the
statement is communicated as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm upon that person.”

Florida’s Law Against Written Threats

Florida law prohibits specified written threats under Section 836.10, F.S., as a second degree felony. The elements of making a written threat to kill include:

  • Writing or composing and sending a letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication to any person containing a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or a threat to kill or do bodily injury to any family member of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent; or
  • Making, posting, or transmitting a threat in a writing or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat.

When it comes to sending a written threat, the term “sent” means the communication is deposited in the mail or by some other form of delivery, and was received by the person being threatened or by a family member of the person being threatened.

This article was last updated on Friday, December 18, 2020.

 

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