Not content to just avoid a COVID vaccine, a north Texas man is facing federal criminal charges for sending a message on his cell phone to a medical doctor in another state with whom he disagreed on vaccinations. The doctor said the message was threatening. She called the police.
Now Scott Eli Harris is heading to Baltimore after being indicted by a federal grand jury for sending threats across state lines. In his message to the doctor, whom Harris had never met, he said,” My 12 gauge promises I won’t… I can’t wait for the shooting to start.”
It’s a federal criminal charge because the alleged threats crossed state lines. Harris could face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
Is a threat a crime in Texas?
What if Mr. Harris had sent a similar message to a doctor in the state of Texas. Would he be facing prison time?
He would not, but a threat of violence is a crime in Texas. The threat could be spoken, texted, emailed, left in a note, or even communicated by gesture. However, it’s communicated, it still counts as a threat.
If a person intentionally or knowingly threatens a person (or a person’s spouse) with imminent bodily injury they can be charged with assault by threat. In most cases, assault by threat is a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
If someone threatens to commit violence to a person or property with the intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, they can be charged with terroristic threat, a Class B misdemeanor. Criminal penalties can be a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in county jail.
Those penalties are nowhere near the prison time Mr. Harris could be facing. That’s because these are state charges, not federal charges.
A $500 fine may seem like a reasonable price to pay to get something off your chest, but remember, it’s not just a fine. It’s a criminal charge of assault on your record. And that will have long-term consequences every time you apply for a job or an apartment or need to undergo a criminal background check.
Every Criminal Charge Has a Defense
There are several words in the definition of the crime that holds the key to a defense … knowingly, intentionally, and imminent.
The prosecutor has to prove each of these elements:
- That you intended a threat (not a joke, not an off-hand remark),
- That you knew the person would perceive it as a genuine threat, and
- That they would have a fear of imminent – soon – physical injury or pain
Talk to a Ft. Worth Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you take a plea for this crime and are later charged with another crime, you could face harsher penalties because you already have a criminal record. Fight the charges. Call the Ft. Worth criminal defense attorneys at Lee and Wood, LP: 817-678-6771 or contact us online.