Threats on Social Media and Criminal Charges

Posted On: December 13th, 2020 by Bradley J. Groene
Shocked woman looking at her phone in dark room

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Reddit, and countless other social media platforms offer a digital forum where people from all over the world and all walks of life can share their thoughts, photos, videos, and more. Unfortunately, the discussions on social media are often less than civil. These conversations can quickly turn into open conflicts.

Maybe you were blowing off steam, joking, or simply misunderstood, but someone has accused you of making a threat on social media. Can you be charged with a crime for making a threat on social media in Ohio? If so, what can you be accused of, and how can you avoid a conviction?

For help with charges related to making a threat on social media, reach out to Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP. We can help you understand your charge and fight to avoid a conviction. Call (513) 338-1890 for a free, confidential consultation about what you can expect.

Can Threats on Social Media Lead to Criminal Charges?

Your post or video might have been just words or a joke to you, but under Ohio law, there are ways in which you can be charged with a crime for making a threat online.

Terroristic Threats

Even if there is no way you could have carried out the threat you are accused of making, you can still be charged with making a terroristic threat, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Any of the following types of statements on social media could lead to this charge in Ohio:

  • Any remark that appears to “intimidate or coerce” civilians
  • Any statement that seems intended to influence any government policy
  • Any threat that appears intended to affect the government’s conduct

This applies to any government-run institution or organization, including public schools.

Threats That ‘Induce Panic’

In 2018, a man who had ties to Youngstown was arrested by the FBI for posting this on Facebook: “Do u ever wake up and just have that feeling that I want to shoot up a school?” He was charged with “inducing panic.”

This charge and the potential penalties are broad. Still, any threat—online or otherwise—that causes a public place to be evacuated, or any other “serious public inconvenience or alarm” could land you with an inducing panic charge.

Depending on whether anyone was harmed and how much “economic harm” the alleged threat caused, you could be charged with anything from a first-degree misdemeanor (up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines) to a third-degree felony (up to three years’ incarceration and $10,000 in fines).

Threats to Individuals

Any telecommunication, which could include social media posts, that threatens or harasses another person could lead to a charge of telecommunications harassment. Threatening, intimidating, coercive, sexual, abusive, or repeated and unwanted contact via social media, phone, or text message could lead to this charge.

The first offense will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor (up to 180 days’ incarceration and as much as $1,000 in fines). Subsequent charges will be fifth-degree felonies (up to a year in prison and $2,500 in fines).

Juvenile Charges

Everyone uses social media these days, but young people are perhaps the most common demographic. That is why threats on social media that lead to criminal charges so often involve young people.

Juvenile charges in Ohio are handled differently than criminal charges for adults. A minor accused of any of the crimes discussed above would likely be charged with a “delinquent act” and have to appear in juvenile court. Keep in mind that some serious charges can lead to juveniles being tried as adults.

Any juvenile charge can have serious, lasting impacts on a young person’s life, so it is important to speak with a qualified juvenile defense attorney who can fight for reduced penalties or dropped charges.

How a Defense Lawyer Can Help

Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer Brad Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates understands how a misunderstanding online can lead to serious criminal charges. He doesn’t think this should define the rest of your life and knows how to get these charges reduced and dismissed.

We will gather evidence that demonstrates your innocence and advocate for reduced penalties and, if possible, to have the charge dropped. With Brad, you get a tireless and experienced ally who will protect you from unfair treatment and keep you focused on the goal: beating your charge and getting back to your life.

To get started, call (513) 338-1890 or use our online contact form for a free, initial consultation. Attorney Groene will discuss your situation and what we can do to help.