Threats on College Campuses

In every state in the nation, it is illegal for a person to make criminal threats against another person or people. The majority of higher education institutions also discourage this behavior by condemning it in its code of conduct. Due to an unfortunate history of large-scale college campus shootings, schools take threats - whether they are intended to be carried out or not - incredibly seriously. In the eyes of colleges and universities, a failed opportunity to investigate a threat could endanger the lives of innocent students and staff.

What constitutes a threat?

Threats are defined as words that are verbalized with the intent to terrorize or threaten another individual or group of people. Although the Constitution does guarantee the right to free speech, it draws the line at criminal threats. Words that are recklessly spoken and cause others to feel fearful will likely be met with repercussions. In order to clarify what a threat actually is, here are a few elements that must be present in order to constitute what most schools would consider a criminal or terroristic threat.

It Must Be Communicated

Words have no power unless they are communicated to the person or people it was meant for. States often determine the severity of a penalty based on who is being threatened. Threats made against a public facility (higher education institutions), witnesses, law enforcement and family members are some of the categories that are assessed by courts for the purposes of prosecution.

The Accused's Intention

Solely communicating threatening words is not enough for a person to be found responsible of making criminal threats. The feeling that an alleged perpetrator intended to invoke from a targeted person or group of people is what constitutes a criminal threat. When a person's words make another person fear for their life or feel unsafe, it is punishable. It's important to note that the intent element of this offense is fulfilled regardless of the accused's intention to actually carry out a threat. The intent to harm does not have to be present for a person to be convicted of this crime.

Types of Threats

Threats are made in a variety of forms and are used for different motivations. Here are the most common types of threats that people use:

A direct threat: this type of threat targets a person or group of people in a way that is straightforward and explicit.

Example - A woman telling her ex-boyfriend, “I will get you one day if it's the last thing I do.”

An indirect threat: this type of threat is ambiguous. What will be carried out, the alleged target and the motivation may be unclear.

Example - “They'll pay for what they did.”

A conditional threat: this type of threat is made to get somebody to do something. Oftentimes, people who make these threats promise that a violent act will ensue if another person or group of people don't do what is requested.

Example - “If you don't move out by tomorrow, I'll beat you up.”

How Can Threats Affect My Standing as a Student of the College?

As mentioned above, threats made by students will not be tolerated by school authorities. When they have discovered that a student is partaking in such behavior, local law enforcement authorities are informed and asked to step in. In the event that a student is pinned with criminal charges, he or she may be forced to attend a trial, which could affect school attendance. And if a student is convicted of this crime, it could lead to jail time. The school's repercussions would likely result in a suspension or expulsion.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey Student Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of making criminal threats, it is imperative you consult with a knowledgeable legal professional. Skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento is here to help. Contact him today.

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