Brittany, a lass of fifteen, told two teen friends that she was going to modify a BB gun to look like a real gun and bring it to school and “shoot up” the Plattsburgh Senior High School and then shoot the high school principal. Thinking she was joking, they laughed at her. But Brittany did in fact get a BB gun from one of the friends and proceeded to shoot at a dog in the park and shoot at a boy twice while he was riding his bike. She also shot at a sign and a garbage can. Brittany was arrested for the crime of Making a Terroristic Threat (PL §490.20).
New York, as opposed to other jurisdictions, does not impose criminal liability on individuals who engage in conduct with reckless disregard of the risk of causing terror to another. In New York, criminal liability is limited to threats that are made with the specific intent to intimidate a civilian population. This case ultimately turned on whether Brittany intended to intimidate a civilian population when she verbalized the threats to her friends.
Dismissing the charge, the Family Court ruled that “A private conversation between immature teenage friends, without more, does not establish the element of intent to intimidate a civilian population.”
Here is the decision: Matter of Brittany A.