Can You Be Charged With a Crime for Making a Threat on Social Media?

  • Nov 19 2018

We all know it’s usually better to not read the comments, but for lots of people, it’s a guilty pleasure they often succumb to. Online on social media, debates can quickly turn into arguments, tempers can flare, and people hiding behind a screen can be downright rude offensive, or confrontational. We’ve all said things we regret on social media, but what happens if you decide to “fight back” and end up making a threat against someone else? Can you be arrested?

It goes without saying that we should all be extremely careful about what we post online. Nothing posted online ever truly goes away, and something you say in the heat of the moment can land you in big trouble with your spouse, family, friends, and even law enforcement. There is growing evidence that law enforcement is increasingly willing to arrest and charge individuals who make threats against others on social media.

Consider the case of a student in Orlando who was recently arrested and charged with a felony after making a threat against an area high school. While the school has not publicly released what the specific nature of the threat was, the student made it on Snapchat, where it was screenshotted and then reported to authorities. Florida Statute 836.10 makes it a crime to issue “written threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism.” This is the statute the student was charged under.

More recently, in Pembroke Pines, a 13-years-old boy was arrested and charged after he made a threat of gun violence at a local middle school on Instagram. The teenager was charged with making a false report concerning the use of a weapon in a violent manner, which is a second-degree felony in Florida.

Many of the reports about arrests from social media threats concern middle or high school students. Unfortunately, threats of violence, especially in Florida schools, are no laughing matter and law enforcement take them incredibly seriously. However, it is often the case that these threats are made by students who are simply unhappy, being bullied, and who have no intention of carrying out these acts. Ultimately, if you or your child is charged with making a threat of violence against others on social media, you or they are likely in serious trouble and facing steep fines and even incarceration.

Of course, the best practice is to refrain from making these kinds of threats on social media altogether. However, if you get caught up in the heat of the moment, or if your struggling child makes a mistake during a particularly rough day, the consequences should not impact you for the rest of your life. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help.

At Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC, we know there is a big difference between someone who intends to act upon a threat and someone who posts something they didn’t really mean. We have represented many clients facing criminal charges for threats and our experienced Miami criminal defense attorneys are practiced building a strong defense that shows you did not have the requisite intent, that you intended your comment to be a joke, and that you otherwise did not intend to make a threat. If you have been charged with making a threat on social media, contact us

Posted in: Criminal