Making terrorist threats is a serious crime that can lead to significant terms of custody. This is particularly true in this age of international terrorism, which has the capability of harming thousands of people. The global definitions hold sway. Interestingly, the law is rarely used in Chicago, not least because the controls put in place make it difficult for people who are that way inclined to hurt the rest of the population. There are instances in which the law has been used to suppress free speech and protest. For example; there was some public outcry when people who had been protesting against NATO were prosecuted. Other defense attorneys have argued that the law may be written in such a vague way that it opens the way for eventual abuse.
This is a law of which the public at large is critical. Terrorism causes terror and that is the beginning point of the prosecution. This criterion is also being modified in order to reflect the realities of a crime that is still in its development stages. For example, a threat made in jest whilst on a plane is bound to cause significant stress nonetheless. Therefore, the prosecutor will be given leeway to prosecute based on the reasonable expectations and anticipations of the people that are on the airplane. Indeed, it would be advisable not to make any threats at all because they could fall under other criminal laws.
Credibility of the Threat
The laws against terrorism are noted for sometimes overturning existing practice on prosecution and rules of evidence. The political will is certainly existent for changing the rules of the game. For example, the credibility of the threat may be an aggravating feature but it does not necessarily follow that the lack of credibility will release the defendant from criminal culpability. In the famous case of the NATO protesters, some of the evidence pointed towards a credible threat. For example, the defendants had sought to acquire napalm and had read instructions for making potassium nitrate. This is one of the most powerful explosive materials available on the market today. It is therefore likely that the judge will make adverse inferences if the defendant has demonstrated a willingness and a capability of undertaking terrorist activity.
The courts and the prosecutor always have to strike a balance between protecting the public and not making a mockery of the law. It must also be recognized that terrorism is a sophisticated crime, and if the legislation is unduly vague or lenient, then a situation that endangers public safety may arise. Public sentiment is broadly supportive of a stringent anti-terror law. That means that defendants are never sympathetic characters in the media. The work of the defense attorney may be further complicated by the fact that there is an imperative to incarcerate the defendant on remand as part of public protection proceedings. As we have seen in the Guantanamo Bay cases, constitutionality is sometimes suspended in order to deal with the immediate threat of terror.
Setting out a Strategy
The defense is always about strategy and in this case it is important to disprove the notion that the threat was ever made. It is a risky strategy to admit to making the threat and then try to mitigate it by suggesting that the threat was not seriously meant. In terrorism-related cases, that kind of strategy is not going to work. The admissions in themselves may open the defendant to further charges which are irrefutable since the court will use his or her own words against the defendant. This has been one of the cornerstones of testing the effectiveness of the law as it stands today. If you need an experienced attorney to handle your terroristic threats case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at 312-560-7100 to give you the best chance of preserving your freedom.
(image courtesy of Jack Young)