PinOn 5 December, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held in State of Minnesota v. Gregory Allen Olson, File No. 69HI-CR-14-823 (5 December 2016) that it is not considered a terroristic threat if an individual expresses hope that a Minnesota state trooper gets shot.

Facts of the Case

Police stopped Olson in October 2014 en route to Chisago City for a suspected DWI. Whereas Olson initially attempted to evade the police, when finally stopped, he refused field sobriety tests.

While en route to the hospital, and then to jail, Olson allegedly said, “It is no wonder people are killing you guys…I truly hope that you are one of the cops that gets their head blown off.” After some expletives and alleging he had done nothing wrong, Olson added, “I hope someone puts a slug in your head, you loser…It is no wonder people are shooting you guys all the time. You see it all the time. There is going to be a lot more.”

Olson was charged and convicted of evading a police officer, making terroristic threats, refusing a sobriety test, fourth-degree DWI, obstruction of justice, fifth-degree assault, and failure to obey a law enforcement officer.

Making Terroristic Threats

Generally, making terroristic threats must adhere to certain specificities to qualify as such an offense. These include that the threat must:

  • Be made verbally, in writing, or through body language and/or innuendo
  • Specifically threaten serious injury, serious property damage, and/or death
  • Be reasonable and credible
  • Make the intended victim become afraid and/or terrified

Minnesota’s terroristic threat statute (Minn. Stat. 609.713) contains three subdivisions. The first views threatening violence with the intent to terrorize as a felony that is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. Secondly, communicating a terroristic threat by way of explosives or other incendiary devices is punishable by up to three (3) years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $3,000. Finally, anyone who displays, exhibits, brandishes or otherwise employs a replica firearm in a threatening manner is subject to up to one (1) year and one (1) day in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $3,000.

Appellate Court Decision

On appeal, Chief Judge Edward Cleary held that Olson’s comments, in and of themselves, did not constitute a terroristic threat. He explained that in order to rise to a criminal offense under state law, Olson would have had to communicate that he would, in fact, act on his threats. Since Olson did not say that he, himself, would, in fact, shoot and/or kill the trooper, his statements—although rude and obnoxious—did not communicate a direct threat on which Olson intended to act.

Further, Olson was obviously confused at the time of his arrest due to heavy alcohol consumption and/or a head injury he sustained from an assault that occurred before his arrest. However, while he was, in fact, verbally abusive and did make offensive statements, again, these statements failed to fulfill the essential elements to constitute the crime of making terroristic threats.

Implied Consent Law

Olson also challenged his conviction for refusing a sobriety test under the state’s implied consent law. Whereas the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that warrantless blood and urine tests violated an individual’s Fourth Amendment protection against illicit searches and seizures, the Court held that a breath test was not unconstitutional.

In this case, the appellate judge held that it was improper for Olson’s conviction for both DWI and violating the implied consent law because they both arose from the same incident. Thus, the court dismissed Olson’s DWI charge and remanded the case back to the lower court for Olson’s new sentencing on only the implied consent violation.