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Criminal threat is a Kansas speech crime

Defendants can face criminal charges and convictions for words as well as actions. Freedom of speech does not apply when communications include terroristic threats or, as they are referred to under Kansas laws, criminal threats. What you say and how others respond to your statements can be the basis for felony charges of criminal threats or aggravated criminal threats.

A terroristic or criminal threat is a credible statement about plans to inflict serious harm with the purpose of frightening another person or terrorizing the public. Criminal threat is a level 9, person crime in Kansas. Charges are elevated to a level 5, person felony for aggravated criminal threat -- an offense that involves a panicked public's reaction to a threat of violence, like a school evacuation after a bomb threat.

It does not matter whether a defendant really planned to carry out the threat. The intention was to have others take a declaration of planned violence seriously.

According to the U.S. Code, terrorism is an activity involving dangers to human life in violation of federal laws or the laws of any individual state. The motive is to intimidate the public and try to force a government to take a certain action or adopt a particular policy. International and domestic terrorism differ only in where these activities occur, inside or outside national boundaries.

Joint Terrorism Task Forces are operating in more than 100 U.S. cities. The task forces are made up of about 4,000 members from hundreds of local, state and federal agencies. Threats seem mild compared to actual acts of violence, but make no mistake, state and federal authorities take both very seriously -- JTTFs respond to terroristic threats as part of investigations into terroristic activities.

A defendant may lack the intent required to be charged with criminal threat. A criminal defense attorney can employ this or other defense strategies to mitigate charges and penalties.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code," accessed June 19, 2015

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