In Florida, Written Threats is defined as the sending, posting, or transmittal of a written or electronic communication containing a threat to kill or harm another person under circumstances where the communication can be viewed by others.

Proof at Trial

To prove a charge of written threats, the State must establish four factual elements:

  1. The defendant made a threat (to kill, do bodily harm, conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism) in a writing or other record (including electronic records);
  2. The defendant sent, posted, or transmitted the the writing/record or procured the sending, posting, or transmission;
  3. The defendant did so in any manner that could be viewed by another person;
  4. The defendant intended the threat to be a true threat.

Meaning of ‘Threat’

While not defined in § 836.10, Florida appellate courts have defined the term ‘threat’ as “an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage.”  TRW v. State, 363 So. 3d 1081, 1085 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023) (citing Puy v. State, 294 So. 3d 930, 933 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020)).

Required Intent

Written Threats contains a mens rea element, which requires an intention or knowledge of wrongdoing as part of the offense. N.D. v. State, 315 So. 3d 102, 104 (Fla. 3d DCA 2020).

The State must show that the defendant intended his or her communication to be a “true threat,” where he or she knew communicated “with the knowledge that it w[ould] be viewed as a threat.”  TRW v. State, 363 So. 3d 1081, 1088 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023).

Reasonableness of Threat

To sustain a conviction, a written threat must also be “sufficient to cause alarm in reasonable persons.”  State v. Cowart, 301 So. 3d 332, 335 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020); Puy v. State, 294 So. 3d 930, 933 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).

Reasonableness of alarm is a question of fact for a jury and not a legal question that is resolvable by way of a motion to dismiss. Id, 294 So. 3d at 933 (affirming denial of motion to dismiss); Cowart, 301 So. 3d at 335 (affirming denial).

Threat of ‘Terrorism’

Where threats concern a promised ‘act of terrorism,’  the State must also show that the accused threatened a violent and unlawful act dangerous to human life and which is intended to:

  1. intimidate, injure, or coerce a civilian population;
  2. influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
  3. affect the conduct of government through destruction of property, assasination, murder, kidnapping, or aircraft piracy.


Florida’s Written threats statute has survived a multitude of constitutional challenges brought on First Amendment and Due Process grounds.

  • See BWB v. State, Fla. 4th DCA (4D2022-1121) (Nov. 2023);N.D. v. State, 315 So. 3d 102, 104 (Fla. 3d DCA 2020); Saidi, 845 So. 2d 1022 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) (rejecting a vagueness challenge); Smith v. State, 532 So. 2d 50 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988) (rejecting First Amendment challenge in analogous case involving public servants).

Penalties for Written Threats

Written Threats is classified as a second degree felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

Written Threats carries a Level 6 offense severity ranking under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. Even for first-time offenders, prosecutors in Florida will often seek jail or rigorous probationary sentences for these types of crimes.

Defenses to Written Threats

There are numerous defenses available to contest a charge of Written Threats, and no person should attempt to resolve such a case without first consulting with a criminal attorney. Some of the more common defenses include the following:

  • Disputes as to the identity of the threat sender;
  • The accused did not intend his or her communications as ‘true’ threats;
  • Lack of intent to send or publish the communication;
  • Disputes as to whether the communication could cause “reasonable” alarm;
  • Ambiguity as to the nature of the communication;
  • Alleged threat constitutes protected speech under the First Amendment;
  • Communication constitutes a non-threatening figure of speech;
  • Hacked social media accounts or identity theft;
  • Defendant did not make or post the threat in a manner to make the threat viewable;

Contact an Attorney

If you have been charged with Written Threats in Jacksonville or the surrounding counties of Northeast Florida, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.