Harmless Rant or a Terror Threat? How New Jersey Criminalizes Texts and Emails

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 16, 2023 | 0 Comments

It's happened to many of us. Caught up in the middle of an argument, or passionate about a particular issue, we dash off a text or an email that fully expresses our frustration, outrage, disgust, or what have you. Moments after hitting ‘send,' however, we may start to have second thoughts . . . “Could I have expressed that a bit more politely?”

Sometimes these emotion-driven messages cross a line, from simply strongly expressing the writer's feelings, to making the recipient think they may be in some danger. New Jersey has several criminal statutes that can land you in some real trouble if you happen to write the wrong thing – or even if you don't intend to threaten anyone, but the recipient takes it the wrong way.

New Jersey's Terroristic Threat Statute

You can be guilty of making terroristic threats in New Jersey if you threaten “to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another.” It also applies if you intend to cause a building to be evacuated. You can also be found guilty if you threaten to kill someone in such a way that the person believes you mean to do so imminently. Violation of this statute is a third-degree felony, with possible consequences of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Criminal Coercion

If you send someone a text or an email that threatens to injure them, to accuse them of some offense, or to expose an embarrassing secret about them in an attempt to get them to do something (or not to do something), you can be guilty of the crime of criminal coercion in New Jersey. Criminal coercion is either a fourth- or a third-degree felony, depending on the seriousness of the threat. Penalties for a fourth-degree conviction are up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, and for a third-degree conviction, are up to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.


In New Jersey, you can be guilty of the crime of harassment if you send someone an email or a text with the intent to harass them, and do so anonymously, or in “offensively coarse language,” or in any other way designed to annoy or alarm them. Even a single text or email can trigger a harassment charge, though repeatedly sending annoying or threatening communications will also do so.

Harassment is normally a petty disorderly persons offense, with a sentence of up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine. If you're on probation or parole, or are in jail when you send the harassing communication, however, the offense is upgraded to a fourth-degree felony, meaning a possible sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Contact Joseph D. Lento if You've Been Charged Because of a Text or Email

If you are being investigated for having sent someone a strongly-worded text or email, or have been charged with a crime in New Jersey as a result of having sent one, contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team for help. Joseph D. Lento has been representing clients charged with these types of crimes in New Jersey for years, and he has the experience and understanding of the law and the court system to help you defend your rights. Call Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686, or use the Lento Law Firm online contact form to find out how they can help.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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