Saying the wrong thing online can get you in far bigger trouble than you might realize. A few months ago, we wrote about criminals caught by law enforcement through Instagram or Youtube. This year, there is growing concern about people who make threats of violence via email, text, or social media, even if the threats turn out to be a hoax or if the threat-maker did not intend their statements to be taken seriously.
The FBI warns that is a federal crime to make threatening interstate communications, punishable by up to five years in federal prison. In Illinois, you could also be charged with the state crime of harassment through electronic communications (720 ILCS 5/26.5), which is a Class 4 felony if:
- You threaten to kill someone.
- You are at least 18 years old and send harassing or threatening messages to someone under 18 years old.
- You are at least 16 years old and threaten someone under 13 years old.
Making Hoax Threats Can Turn a Teen into a Felon
With the rise in mass shootings in schools and other public places, the FBI and local law enforcement are forced to take every threat seriously, regardless of the person’s age or the chance that the person was “just joking around.” Parents are encouraged to warn their teens about the dangers of making impulsive posts online. Even if a careless post is quickly deleted, someone could have screenshotted it within seconds. Young adults who play war-oriented online games should also be cautioned, because in-game messages can easily be misunderstood and lead to felony criminal charges.
Mass Shootings Usually Preceded by Threats of Violence
Since 2014, the FBI has produced several analyses of mass shootings in which three or more people were killed in order to better understand the causes of these tragedies. One study of pre-shooting behavior found that, in almost every case, other people had witnessed warning signs. The majority of the shooters were motivated by a grievance, most commonly due to an interpersonal issue, such as bullying or a relationship break-up, or a perception of unfair treatment at their workplace. Other warning signs included excessive anger, aggressive or confrontational behavior, threat-making, and acts of physical violence.
Talk to an Aggressive Will County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or your child has been accused of electronic harassment or threatening behavior, you need to realize how seriously the police take this type of behavior and that serious criminal charges may result. When you need a Will County criminal defense lawyer to protect your civil rights and your freedom, call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025. We offer free consultations.