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What Is Florida's Law on Making a Written Threat to Kill?

Posted By Ryan Albaugh || 15-Nov-2019

At times, life can be tough and filled with various upsets that cause emotional reactions. This is especially true for adolescents who are still trying to figure out how to navigate the world. When a juvenile goes through trying times, they express their feelings in text messages or on social media. Unfortunately, when they post about taking their anger out on others by firing a weapon at school, they could be accused of committing a second-degree felony offense.

Sending Written Threats to Kill

Under Florida Statute 836.10, it is illegal for a person to send a threatening written message – whether composed by hand or electronically.

The law specifically prohibits a person from composing and sending communication in which they threaten to:

  • Inflict bodily harm on a person or a member of that person’s family
  • Kill someone else or one of their family members
  • Conduct a mass shooting
  • Carry out an act of terrorism

If a person writes such thoughts down in a journal, is that a crime? Technically, it is not an offense to express private feelings about threats unless they intend on showing others or if someone else will be able to see it. The law states that transmitting communication “in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat” is a violation.

Does this Law Only Apply to Minors?

Although this blog began with a discussion about juvenile offenses, the law applies to any person in Florida, regardless of their age. However, in recent months, police have received various reports of high school students posting about their intent to shoot classmates and faculty at their schools.

In October of 2019, a Florida teen got into an altercation at his school. As a result, the faculty told his parents that they could either remove him from his classes or they would expel him. The boy’s parents decided to withdraw him.

Upset about being taken out of the school, the boy allegedly sent a text message to a former classmate, saying he was going to “shoot up that school.” According to law enforcement, he had also targeted at least two students.

Does the Person Need to Have the Means to Carry Out the Offense to Be Charged?

The statute concerning written threats to kill does not state that a person must be able to commit the intended act to violate the law. Sending the threatening communication itself is enough to bring charges.

Returning to the example of the teen boy who threatened to commit a shooting at school, law enforcement searched his home but did not find any weapons there. Therefore, unless the boy had other ways of obtaining a firearm, he would not have been able to carry out the act.

Additionally, he also stated that he sent the text in anger. However, he was still arrested and charged with written threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism.

Also, if a person posts the threats on social media, and then later takes them down, they could still be charged with making written threats because there was a point when someone else could have seen the communication. Such happened with a 12-year-old-girl who posted a threatening message online but later deleted it.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Albaugh Law Firm

If you or a loved one was accused of violating Florida Statute 836.10, it’s imperative to get skilled legal defense on your side as soon as possible. Our attorneys in St. Augustine have over 70 years of collective legal experience and know what it takes to fight charges.

Reach out to us today by calling (904)637-1839 or filling out an online contact form.