Recently there have been several reports of threats made against high schools in Ingham County and surrounding areas in Michigan. According to news reports, 17-year-old Jake Johnson was charged with making threats against Williamston High School last week.
On April 25th students at Berkley High School were dismissed after the school received a bomb threat left on a voicemail that originated from an area outside of Michigan. While officials didn’t believe the threat was credible, it was in the best interest of students and faculty to close the school for the day.
Waverly High School in Lansing was the target of a threat allegedly make to the school recently via Snapchat, a social media app. According to news reports, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office increased patrols around the school last week after threats of violence were made by a student of the school. While it was determined by law enforcement the threat was not ongoing, investigation results were to be reviewed by the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office according to Jeffrey Cook, Eaton County Undersheriff.
In the Williamston High School incident, Jake Johnson was charged with a felony count of false report, or threat of terrorism.
False threats of terrorism are unfortunately becoming more and more common in our schools today. Teenagers are often the ones making threats, whether they intend to carry through with the threat or not. Regardless, the consequences for those convicted of false threat of terrorism are extremely serious and could cost the offender his or her freedom for as long as 20 years.
MCL 750.543m covers circumstances involving reports of terrorism or false threats and is classified as a high severity felony.
While many threats are made via telephone, social media has certainly increased the number of false threat of terrorism cases not only in Michigan, but across the country. Teens and young people often make threatening comments on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms or online forums – and even if a false threat of terrorism comment is removed immediately, prosecutors may pursue criminal charges if the threatening message was seen by only a single person.
In addition to a maximum prison term of 20 years, those found guilty of false report or threat of terrorism may face significant fines of up to $20,000. While decades in prison is harsh punishment, perhaps worst of all is the fact a young person or teen will find him- or herself with a felony criminal record for life. This impacts every aspect of the alleged offender’s future including employment, housing, securing a student loan, and more.
Anyone who is accused of false threat of terrorism must consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney who will investigate the allegations and explore all possible legal options. This is a serious matter that requires serious legal representation.