A member of the Michigan House of Representatives from Oakland Township has introduced a bill aimed at changing the State’s terrorism law. This bill is in response to the prosecution of a student from Lake Superior State University who shared a photo of his Colt AR-15 rifle to his snapchat group. On that photo he wrote, “Takin this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow.” The message was shared on snapchat with others outside the original group and the post was ultimately reported by someone to the university. The student returned to campus the following day and stowed his gun at the campus armory. He was later approached by local and campus police, arrested, and charged with terrorism. His bond was initially set at $250,000, and he faces an upcoming trial scheduled for March of this year. The lawmaker believes this charge is politically motivated and his bill seeks to more specifically define what a terrorist threat is, aiming to prevent situations like this.
What Does The Proposed Bill Say?
The proposed bill would more specifically define what a terroristic threat is, stating that a terroristic threat is “knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly making a statement that would intimidate, frighten, or coerce a victim into undertaking an action or refraining from undertaking an action.” The bill would also require a threat of physical force or destruction must be made by the person intending to carry it out while considering context so that a “reasonable person” could conclude that this was a legitimate threat.
How Does This Change The Current Law?
Currently, it is not a defense if the defendant did not have the intent or capability to actually carry out the threat he allegedly made. All it takes is to threaten to commit an act of terrorism and that threat is communicated to another person, that’s it. The current law has a lot of room for debate that has been ongoing for quite some time. We covered this debate in a prior blog here. The current climate has made the response to any threat powerful and quick. There is an added sense of urgency and care when high schools and universities are involved.
Why Is This Important?
This proposed bill could really change how these cases are viewed and more importantly, how they are prosecuted. It has been the position of many people that the current law is a legislative overreach, and the social cost of this attempt to protect the community is too much. The biggest opponents of the current law believe that the current law directly attacks both the first amendment relating to free speech and second amendment relating to the right to bear arms.
The First Amendment
The First Amendment allows us the ability for free speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, etc. But the First Amendment does not protect obscene or threatening speech, and that is what is at issue here. Opponents of the current terrorism law say it’s too broad and violates the protections of the First Amendment. The current bill seeks to reinforce the ideas behind the first amendment relating to free speech requiring a specific threat. This will be an interesting debate going forward, and it remains to be seen if this lawmaker’s attempt to change the current law is successful. The lawmaker stated that this is the first step of many aimed at changing the current terrorism law.
Any Further Questions?
If you have any questions related to this blog or anything else related to the charge of terrorism, we are happy to answer your questions. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it is all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.