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Terroristic Threats and Domestic Violence

The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Statute defines domestic violence as the occurrence of one or more specified acts. Those acts include some crimes that may sound familiar, such as homicide, sexual assault, stalking, and harassment. However, the lesser-known act of “terroristic threats” is also included in the list of acts that constitutes domestic violence.

New Jersey Statutory Definition of a Terroristic Threat

Under the New Jersey Terroristic Threat statute, a person is guilty of the crime of terroristic threats if he or she threatens to commit a crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another. Additionally, a threat with a purpose of causing evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience is also a terroristic threat. Finally, a threat to kill another person with the intent to put the other person in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonable causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out is a terroristic threat.

An easier to understand definition of a terroristic threat is a threat of violence, either written or verbal, that reasonably causes serious fear or terror to the victim. An example is where person A verbally threatens to kill person B, and person B believes the threat to be real and is therefore terrified. It is important to understand that the terroristic threat statute is not intended to address short-lived expressions of anger (such as things said in the “heat of the moment” that are not truly meant), but rather it addresses very serious threats of violence.

The main issue in understanding terroristic threats is the reasonableness of the fear to the victim. A court will apply a reasonable person standard, asking itself, “Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances as the victim in the case believe the threat to be serious and imminent, and be fearful as a result?” In determining whether a threat rises to the level of a criminal terroristic threat, the court will look at the specific facts of each case to determine if the threat was a serious one and if the response of the victim was a reasonable one.

What Kinds of Threats Constitute Terroristic Threats?

Threats of physical injury on the victim, including threats to kill a person, are covered by the statute. Additionally, threats to injure or kill a person other than the victim (family member, romantic partner, etc.) may be considered terroristic threats. The threat does not have to be against a person, however. Threatening to damage property of interest to the victim may also be a terroristic threat.

Any domestic violence case has serious implications for both the victim and the accused. The specific circumstances and facts of each case are of the utmost importance in cases of terroristic threats. If you find yourself involved with a terroristic threat case, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation on your case today.


N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 - Terroristic Threats

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