As we have explained here before: Facebook threats can get you arrested; Twitter threats can get you arrested; and even one-word text threats can get you arrested. So as teens abandon these modes of communication in favor of the image messaging app Snapchat, it's probably a good idea to let them know that yes, Snapchat threats can get your arrested.
Modesto, California police arrested two California high school students after they posted a video on Snapchat, aimed at a black classmate, complete with noose, the words "You must die motherf***er," and an image of a gun being fired at the viewer. Here's what the students are charged with:
The video was originally posted on March 25th, while students were on Easter break. The two white students (who names have been withheld because they are minors), were first suspended from Central Catholic High School then arrested and booked on 3 felony charges:
- Criminal Conspiracy: Defined as when two or more persons conspire to commit any crime, it would apply to the student who filmed the Snapchat and the one who appeared in it;
- Making Terrorist Threats: Meaning a threat to "commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person," regardless of whether the person making threat intends to carry it out; and
- Committing a Hate Crime: Any criminal act committed because of the race or ethnicity of the victim.
All told, the teens could be facing anywhere from seven to twelve years in prison.
While the names of the perpetrators have not been released, the victim to whom the threat was aimed did allow news outlets to publish his name. Noah Porter, an 18-year-old senior at Central Catholic released a statement two weeks after the video was posted:
"The death threat made me afraid. I know that a noose around someone's neck is nothing to joke about. I heard my name in the video. The death threat made me afraid because I was singled out. I felt threatened and angered ... The video was put on social media for everyone to see. I know what the noose represents and it's not a positive or joking matter. I usually don't get mad easily but this was serious and nothing like I had experienced before."
While some have insisted that the video was a joke, it only matters whether those who made the communication intended it to be taken as a threat and whether it caused the target to be in reasonable fear for his or her safety. So a few words to the as-yet-unwise: just because your Snapchats disappear quickly doesn't make them any less threatening or any less illegal.
- Targeted Youth at Central Catholic High in Modesto Speaks out About Racist Video (The Modesto Bee)
- Are Online Rants Criminal Threats? Supreme Court to Weigh In (FindLaw Blotter)
- Fake Calculator App Facilitated School Sexting Scandal (FindLaw Blotter)
- Sarcastic Facebook Threat Lands Teen in Jail (FindLaw Blotter)