The constitution guarantees the right to free speech but there are specific limitations to the rights like prohibitions against slander and libel. There are also instances when speech can constitute a crime like criminal threats. Criminal threats can include terroristic threats, malicious harassment or when someone threatens another person with death or physical harm.
Elements of a threat
- Communication – the threat for physical harm can be communicated through verbal means, email, text message or through non-verbal language like gestures or movements. However, there are states that require threats to be verbal or written because gestures are not enough for it to be considered a crime.
- Fear and intent – threat is considered a crime if it includes the intention to put someone in fear of his life or being injured. It is not necessary for a victim to be experience fear and terror because what matters is the intent of the person who made the threat. Intent is usually determined by the circumstances surrounding the case.
- Specificity and reasonableness – The threat must be specific and reasonable before it is considered a crime. It must be capable of making a person feel that he will be hurt and conclude that the threat is credible, real and imminent. For example, if you threaten to blow up the world if the bartender does not give you a drink, the threat is not believable. If you walk inside a store carrying a gun and threaten to shoot the clerk unless you are given a refund, the threat is specific and reasonable.
- Assault – In some states, assault is considered as criminal threat. Threatening to punch someone is not assault but if you approach the person in a threatening manner, it qualifies as assault.
Several penalties can be imposed on a person convicted of making a criminal threat like jailtime, fines and probation depending if the charge is misdemeanour or felony.
If you have been charged of making a criminal threat, call MyDefence immediately. You need a criminal defence lawyer who is knowledgeable with the state laws on criminal threats and who has experience in the criminal justice system and the legal requirements of the case.