By: Mark Issa
September 11, 2013
Terroristic Threats 16-11-37(a)
(a) A person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence, to release any hazardous substance, as such term is defined in Code Section 12-8-92, or to burn or damage property with the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise causing serious public inconvenience or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. No person shall be convicted under this subsection on the uncorroborated testimony of the party to whom the threat is communicated.
This is a situation that comes up fairly frequently in our practice. And it’s very interesting because this is a statute that can turn a normal, everyday argument into a felony indictment in a hurry. This crime carries a range of punishment of 1-5 years, potentially in a Georgia penitentiary.
Now let’s look at how it works. First of all, this statute actually has a positive side. It is the one statute in Georgia that requires more than the uncorroborated testimony of the alleged victim. One witness is not enough. There has to be at least a little bit of independent evidence that the threat occurred.
However, this positive side (much like every other “positive side” in a Georgia criminal statute) is really quite meaningless. The “corroboration” required by this statute can be supplied by some thing as minimal as the alleged victim saying that they are “afraid” after the alleged threat. Nelson v. State, 277 Ga.App. 92 (2005).
Now, here is the really bad part of this statute. The situation that most often comes up is where someone threatens to do a “crime of violence” to another. And a “crime of violence” is exactly what it says legally. That is anything that involves violence. The truly ironic part of this statute is that it creates a situation in Georgia that allows threatening to commit a misdemeanor (such as simple battery) is a felony but actually committing it is a misdemeanor. This is laughable right?
The bottom line is watch what you say. Because the next idle threat you make could land you in a penitentiary.