Threats or jokes?

That is also a law enforcement issue. I understand that you were not making a real threat. But it is trivially easy to mask a real threat by using meaningless conditionals.

“Gee, if I wasn’t such a nice guy, I would shoot up a school.” Is that a threat? “I would so totally shoot all of my classmates tomorrow morning at 8am in the cafeteria, but I am just too lazy to do it.” Does the last part remove the statement from being a threat?

Doubtful. Unless the author wrote a book with the intent of causing others to believe he was going to carry out a violent crime, then it’s doubtful a reasonable person would view that work of fiction as a threat. Threats have to be credible to be threats. Some paranoid person reading a work of fiction and claiming it made them fear for their life is not enough to label words a threat. There has to be “reasonable fear.”

Do you not realize that EVERY state has similar laws regarding threats? FL also did before this one, and it was amended because previously it was difficult to prosecute “true” threats for the reason I already mentioned.

Here is the previous writing of the law, going back many years:

The issue with the previous language was that it specified that if someone threatened to kill, for instance, the person or family member the threat was communicated to it was a threat, but it wasn’t a threat if the threat was regarding harming someone else.

So “I’m on may way to kill your sister; you’ll never see her again” was a threat according to the old language. “I’m on my way to kill your best friend Linda; you’ll never see her again” was not. That is the reason for the change. Other states don’t have that issue, yet their similar laws going way back haven’t caused the banning of books.

Below is a law in my state regarding terroristic threats. It was passed in 1978 and last amended in 2002.

Whether or not a statement is threatening has nothing to do with the intent of the person uttering it, and everything to do with the content of the statement and the context in which it was spoken.

I take the position that there is no context in which it is appropriate to utter a statement which a reasonable person would interpret as a terroristic threat. In such a case, the police powers of the state override individual liberty.

If the police/DA think they can prove that to a jury, I say go ahead.

~Max, from Florida

Umm, “On my way! School shooter,”, when does this ‘joke’ get funny?

CMC fnord!

You had to be there.

(Kidding — I agree with you. Maybe “joke” isn’t the right word for this. “Provocative jest?”)

The two in heaviest rotation when I was a kid starting about '89 were

On top of old smokey
All covered in blood
I shot my poor teacher
with an M16 gun
I went to her funeral
I went to her grave
Some people threw flowers
I threw a granade
I blew up q city
I blew up a town
I blew my poor teacher
Right out of the ground
I opened her coffin
She wasn’t quite dead
So I took a bazooka
and blew off her head

Joy to the world my teqcher 's dead
We bar-b-qued her head
And what about the body?
We flushed it down the potty
And around and around it went
And around and around it went
And around and around and around it went

During holiday we used

Deck the halls with gasoline
Fa la la la la la la la la la
Strike a match a watch in gleem
Fa la la la la la la la la la
Watch the school burn down to ashes
Fa la la la la la la la la la
Aren’t you glad I played with matches
Fa la la la la la la la la la

It saddens me I can’t teach these to my kids or even accidentally sing them around them.

I was born in 1967 and grew up in NYC during the violent 1970s and our version was “bopped him on the bean with a rotten tangerine”. Maybe we had enough real violence or something, so we didn’t need it in our kiddie songs?

Anyway, can a lawyer chime in and tell us how this law compares to terroristic threat laws in other states? Is this an outlier? Or, was Florida an outlier because they didn’t have this law on the books before?

I’m pretty sure published songs and books wouldn’t fall under this law because they don’t have the immediacy needed. You know, the immediacy of someone posting on Twitter about being a school shooter.

OMG. The version I learned in the 1970s Atlantan suburbs was a bit more, uh, legalistic.

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Teacher hit me with a ruler
Said “teach, here I’m gonna sue ya!”
And teacher don’t teach no more!

IANAL, but it’s not difficult to compare. I posted NJ’s.

See post 38. It was on the books before. Since 1913. It was amended this time for the reason I went over.

How it reads now:

How it read in 1997:

It’s not about immediacy; it’s about whether the threat was credible and would cause “reasonable” fear for safety. Novels and songs don’t cause reasonable fear. Here is how FL defines credible threats:

Regardless of what the student should be charged with or convicted of or punished for, such a post perfectly justifies a visit by the local police to find out just what is going on, in the interests of public safety.

Adolescents are notorious for having some among them who lack the appreciation for how mature society interprets many things they do and say. Some kids think things are jokes that are horrifying to adults. Many times these jokes are a form of rebellion or a way to stand out. This does not excuse it but some kids do think it’s funny.

If you compare the number of bomb threats to actual bombings (or attempted bombings) I am sure that there are vastly more threats than bombings. As such is it reasonable to believe that the threat means an actual bomb?

I’m sure the answer is “yes” because even though the chance is small, you still are in fear that it might happen to you this time. But that then starts down the slippery slope in which “On the way, school shooter” is prosecuted even though the threat was made in the evening hours when school was not in session.

I agree that there is nothing funny about it, but I would hate for the law to turn on a difference of whether a person was a sufficiently good joke teller.

Its like the guy at TSA several years ago when they were searching his wallet and he told them to look hard because there might be a rifle in there. I agree that in this day and time, it is a pretty stupid thing to say at TSA, however nobody in their right mind would believe that he or anyone could conceal a rifle in his wallet.

I hate to use the old cliche, but this overreaction means that the terrorists win. Richard Reid accomplished more than he could have ever dreamed as he now forces everyone to remove their shoes at security checkpoints.

A threat is a statement expressing intent to do harm. Terrorism is any word or deed that induces fear (terror). Certain political figures regularly emit statements that induce fear in people and/or express intent to do harm. Therefore such pols should be jailed.

When a smiley is appended. :smiley: When followed by a frown, it’s a threat. :mad:

Or be more subtle. I shot the sheriff but damn! I clean missed the deputy. :smack:

As much as some would like, we cannot outlaw stupidity.

One thing about school shooters is that many are already known to be troubled. Was the man who posted this “joke” showing signs of a tendency to violence or instability? Maybe a little investigation would be appropriate before an arrest.

I remember
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school,
We have tortured all the teachers we have broken all the rules…

I can’t remember the next line, and none of the versions I’ve found online sound right. Maybe because I’m now a teacher, I’ve blocked it all out…

The answer is yes, but not because of the probability of a threat is credible. The reason schools take all bomb and shooting threats seriously is because the stakes are too high to risk ignorance. Maybe this isn’t obvious to you, or maybe you take issue with it, but standard operating procedure in any public place is to take all bomb threats seriously. Schools, airports, libraries, city hall, festivals, events, etc.

Then you hate the law. Context can be the difference between a funny joke and an arrest for making threats, and in my opinion it should be that way.

Now, whether the person should be convicted because they are a bad joke teller is entirely different. The standard goes up from probable cause to beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, you would have to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intended to make good on their threat. See for example, Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003); or Elonis v. United States, 575 U.S. ___ (2015).


SDMB v. 'Luci, 666 U.S. ___ (2020) will be informative too.

Oh, you! I almost looked that up. :slight_smile:


That’s how they define “credible threat.” But how do they define the word “threat” by itself, which is what was used in the law?

What UltraVires seems to be afraid of is that the term “threat” might be ill-defined in law, and thus take on its everyday English meaning.

It does seem to me that the law should have said “credible threat” instead of just “threat.”

I looked it up.
First of all it is not specifically a crime to yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. It is a crime to intentionally create a dangerous situation by causing a panic for no apparent reason (I presume it’s legal to accidently cause a panic if there is an actual fire).

It’s usually considered a misdemeanor in most places anyway (unless someone is actually killed or seriously injured I assume).

So in this particular case, where school is out and there is clearly no intent to actually cause harm, I think it is clearly an overreaction.

You have quoted the (long) name of the law, not the actual text within. The text is currently codified as FLA. Stat. 836.10.
836.10 Written threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism; punishment; exemption from liability.-
[ol][li]Any person who writes or composes and also sends or procures the sending of any letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication, whether such letter or communication be signed or anonymous, to any person, containing a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or a threat to kill or do bodily injury to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a writing or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat, commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.[/li][li]This section does not impose liability on a provider of an interactive computer service, communications services as defined in s. 202.11, a commercial mobile service, or an information service, including, but not limited to, an Internet service provider or a hosting service provider, if it provides the transmission, storage, or caching of electronic communications or messages of others or provides another related telecommunications service, commercial mobile radio service, or information service for use by another person who violates this section. This exemption from liability is consistent with and in addition to any liability exemption provided under 47 U.S.C. s. 230.[/ol][/li]
The term “credible threat” is not used in this statute. Contrast with the stalking statute (FLA Stat. 784.048), part of which is reproduced in the below spoiler.

“Credible threat” means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat. The present incarceration of the person making the threat is not a bar to prosecution under this section.

The standard jury instructions when it comes to a criminal charge under 836.10 are as follows (Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 8.22):
**"**To prove the crime of Written Threat to [Kill] [Do Bodily Injury] [Conduct a Mass Shooting] [Conduct an Act of Terrorism], the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
[INDENT]*There are two ways to violate § 836.10, Fla. Stat. Give as applicable.
[ol]li [wrote] [composed] a[n] [letter] [electronic communication] [inscribed communication].[/li][li]The [letter] [electronic communication] [inscribed communication] contained a threat to [kill] [do bodily injury to] [(victim)] [any member of (victim’s) family].[/li]li [sent] [procured the sending of] that [letter] [electronic communication] [inscribed communication] to (victim).[/ol][/li]Give if applicable
It is not necessary for the State to prove that the [letter] [electronic communication] [inscribed communication] had been signed.

Definitions. Give if applicable.
An “inscribed communication” is a communication that is written or printed.
To “procure” means to persuade, induce, prevail upon, or cause a person to do something.

The second way to violate § 836.10, Fla. Stat. is set forth below.
[ol]li [made] [posted] [transmitted] a writing or other record.[/li][li]The writing or other record contained a threat to conduct [a mass shooting] [or] [an act of terrorism].[/li]li [made] [posted] [transmitted] the writing or other record in a manner that allowed another person to view the threat.[/ol][/li]
A “record” includes an electronic record.

The statute may raise First Amendment concerns. Trial judges and attorneys should consider Elonis v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2001 (2015) and Saidi v. State, 845 So. 2d 1022 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003).

The name of (victim) in the first set of elements 2 and 3 must be the same person.

There is no statutory definition for the term “electronic communication.” In the absence of case law, trial judges will have to fashion their own definition, perhaps by looking at § 934.02(12), Fla. Stat. and § 668.602(7), Fla. Stat. The definition for inscribed communication comes from the dictionary definition of the word inscribed. The definition of procure comes from the manslaughter standard instruction.

*The act of posting a message on social media that threatened to “shoot up” a school did not constitute a violation of law under the clause of § 836.10, Fla. Stat., that prohibits the sending of threats to a specific victim because it was not sent directly to the victims.J.A.W. v. State, 210 So. 3d 142 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016). In response to J.A.W., the Legislature created an alternative way to commit the crime by removing the requirement that the threat be sent to the person threatened.

This instruction was adopted in 2013 [131 So. 3d 720] and amended in 2018.[/INDENT]


Qualifier: my kids are in their thirties now.

When they were in high school, gang violence was the big threat. This was before Columbine, so if a dangerous kid smuggled in a gun, it was typically to hit a specific target.

I told my kids, " If you hear/see/know of a gun on campus, go tell a teacher, then LEAVE THE SCHOOL IMMEDIATELY. I will handle any repercussions from your unauthorized exit." This was discussed at work, and another parent suggested that by “telling,” my kid would be marked for retaliation.

I maintained retaliation was a separate issue. My point is that ifvthere is a gun on campus, I don’t want my kid there!

Today, it’s worse, much worse. Now the threat is to shoot anything and everybody. There are shootings on elementary schools! My grown daughter has heart failure when she hears of any elementary school campus shooting, because her kids are grade school age!

I honestly don’t give a good Gawd-damn about anybody’s freedom of speech, when it comes to threats of school shootings. Those freedoms are annihilated when they come up against the right of a child who is at the very beginning of his or her life. Period. Joje or tease about any other subject in the world. I don’t care. That speech can remain free under all circumstances.

But when it comes to a threat, real or imagined, against a school, stomp on those idiots. Schools are supposed to be a safe place, where we can entrust the most precious things we have: our children.

Tthe Supreme Court ruling was that freedom of speech did not extend to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. That ruling should be expanded to include, “or threatening to shoot up a school.”