In Minnesota, "Terroristic Threats" Might Not Mean What You Think It Does

When you see the words “terroristic threat” what comes to mind? For many, the phrase conjures up an image of an Al Qaeda member threatening to bomb a building and kill hundreds of people. But, in Minnesota, the crime of Terroristic Threats usually doesn’t involve anything we traditionally associate with terrorism. Instead Minnesota describes terroristic threats as directly or indirectly threatening to commit a crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another. So, by telling the guy who’s stealing your spot in the Target check-out line that you’re going to punch him in the face, you may have committed the crime of Terroristic Threat.

Like most people, many employers are unfamiliar with the Minnesota Terroristic Threats laws. Therefore, a conviction for terroristic threats in Minnesota can be extremely problematic when an individual is trying to find a job. New York for example, calls making a threat to another person, Menacing in the Second Degree. New York also has a statute called “Making a Terroristic Threat” that criminalizes making a threat to commit an offense with the intent to coerce or intimidate a civilian population. So, it makes sense that an employer in New York who sees a Minnesota conviction for Terroristic Threats could assume the potential employee is a terrorist. Not particularly helpful when you’re trying to find work.

To avoid misunderstandings about what exactly constitutes a Terroristic Threat, some have proposed amending Minnesota’s statute to more accurately reflect the behavior the statute seeks to prevent. An alternative to New York’s law, “Menacing,” the term “Criminal Threat” is used by Kansas and California. An employer who sees a conviction for “criminal threat” would likely have a much clearer picture of what the crime entailed than one who sees a conviction for terroristic threats.