Over the last 14 years, the definition of “terrorist” has broadened significantly. Now a mere verbal threat that has nothing to do with international relations can qualify as an act of terrorism under Michigan law. One recent example involves a call to a crisis center.
During an 80-minute call to a mental health hotline, the defendant made specific threats of violence. Under Michigan law, a terrorist threat includes a threat to commit an act of terrorism that is communicated to a third party. In this case, the threat was communicated to the emergency services specialist over the phone.
The Michigan Penal Code defines an “act of terrorism” as: “a willful and deliberate act that is all of the following”:
- a violent felony under the laws of this state, whether or not committed in this state;
- that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life; and
- that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.
While under the law, it is no defense that the person “did not have the intent or capability of committing the act of terrorism,” a call made to a crisis line would ordinarily have the potential of protection under confidentiality privileges. But in this case, because the threats were made against a third party, those privileges were lost.
With international tensions high around the globe, Americans have not forgotten the tragic events of 9-11. The Michigan law carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years or a fine of up to $20,000, or both, upon conviction under the terrorism statute. An American jury in a criminal trial against an alleged terrorist is likely to be haunted by images of what terrorists can do. Mounting an effective criminal defense is crucial to acquittal when charged with a terrorist crime. If you find yourself in this situation, contact a criminal defense attorney in Berrien County immediately for counsel and guidance on mitigating the charges against you.
For the past 45 years, Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been one of the leading law firms in Michigan. Our prominent, reputable and highly experienced trial lawyers are here to fight for you and your family. For further information or to schedule an appointment please visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.