Death threats are a very serious matter, as are any written or verbal threats against the well-being of another person. Florida harassment laws are strict and don’t allow for any threats against the lives of others or the violation of their rights. The U. S. Constitution's freedom of speech protection does not extend to death threats, libelous behavior or unlawful harassment. In Florida, death threats are a felony offense in the second degree. In addition, other forms of harassment, such as aggravated stalking, which could escalate into death threats, are classified as third-degree felonies.
Penalty for Making Death Threats
The penalty for making death threats extends beyond just verbal statements. Section 836.10 of the Florida statute speaks specifically to written death threats. If a person writes and sends, or is somehow involved in the transmission of, this sort of threat, they will be considered guilty of the crime. These threats can be sent via written letter or electronic communication, and the intent to kill or do bodily injury may be to the letter’s recipient or to a member of their family. In all of these scenarios, the act will be considered a felony in the second degree. Threats of mass shootings or acts of terrorism also fall under this category. Chapter 836 of the Florida Statutes states that a felony in the second degree could result in jail time of up to 15 years.
Florida Law on Verbal Threats
Under Florida Statute 836.05, anyone who makes a verbal or written malicious threat that suggests an injury to the person, property or reputation of another will be guilty of a felony in the second degree. This is also the case when the threat is that personal information will be revealed or a libelous act will be committed by the perpetrator. The extortion of money from the victim in an effort to encourage a certain behavior is also a second-degree felony.
Florida Harassment Laws
Beyond death threats, Florida law provides guidance as to how harassment in a variety of forms should be treated under the law. The statutes define harassment to mean any conduct directed at a specific person that causes them significant emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose. Anyone who knowingly and maliciously harasses someone can be considered guilty of stalking, which is a misdemeanor in the first degree. These details are laid out in section 784 of the Florida Statutes. If this behavior were to intensify with time and lead to aggravated stalking, it could be correlated with behavior surrounding death threats.
If someone willfully and repeatedly harasses another while also making a threat against their well-being, this is considered aggravated stalking. This crime is considered a third-degree felony. This is also the case if the aggravated stalking occurs after an injunction or other request that the behavior stop. If a child under the age of 16 is the victim of aggravated stalking, the perpetrator is also subject to third-degree felony charges. In Florida, law enforcement officials may arrest anyone they have probable cause to believe is in violation of these laws without a warrant.
Read More: Harassment and Stalking Laws in Florida
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. She has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, <a href="https://www.wordsmythcontent.com/">Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing</a>, and enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.