How Certain Posts on Social Media Could Lead to Threat Charges

Many teens use social media to share photos and videos of their lives. Often times, these posts are coupled with a caption that gives a little insight into how the person is, or was, feeling at the time. Unfortunately, because minors are still developing and trying to figure out how to navigate the world, they might not be aware of how what they post online could have serious consequences in real life.

High School Student Charged with Making Criminal Threats

Recently, a California teen was arrested and charged with making criminal threats after posting a photo of themselves on Instagram. The 16-year-old included the caption, “felt cute might shoot up a school later.”

Officers were dispatched to the teen’s high school, where they arrested the student for making a threat online. Investigators also searched the home where the teen lives and found two pellet guns.

What Constitutes a Criminal Threat in California?

In California, it is illegal for a person to threaten physical harm or death against another person. To be charged with this offense, the alleged offender must have made:

  • The other person fear for their safety or the safety of their family
  • A specific threat
  • The statement verbally or in writing, which includes electronic communication

A person does not have to directly address someone for their actions to be considered a threat. For instance, if they say their family member is going to shoot someone else, and that other person reasonably fears for their life, the person who made the statement could be charged.

However, it’s not considered a threat if the individual’s fear was unreasonable. For example, if someone says they are going to run another person over with a train, and the person making the threat can’t access or control a train, any fear would not be reasonable.

When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?

In California, the criminal justice process is different for adults and adolescents. The juvenile system seeks to rehabilitate the minor, whereas the regular system focuses on punishment. Although crimes committed by teens are mainly handled in juvenile court, a person 16 years of age or older could have their case sent to adult court and face the same penalties as someone 18 or older.

Potential Conviction Penalties

Making criminal threats is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The maximum jail term for a misdemeanor is 1 year. Additionally, a fine of up to $1,000 could be assessed. For a felony, the alleged offender could be ordered to a prison sentence of up to 3 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Schedule a Free Consultation with The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch

If your child was accused of committing an offense in Fresno, contact our firm today. Whether the case is handled in juvenile or adult court, we will fight hard to protect their rights and future.

Speak with our attorney by calling us at (559) 484-2112 or contacting us online.