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What are the Elements of a Criminal Threat?

If someone has accused you of threatening to kill or harm another person, you may be charged with making criminal threats. The threat must be communicated in some way, but it does not have to be a verbal — it could come in the form of email, text message or even body language.

It is similar to the crime of assault in some regards, although there are some key differences. For example, an assault occurs when one person either attempts to injure another person or uses a threat of force along with a threatening action. Unlike a criminal threat, words alone are not enough to constitute an assault charge. Thus, assault is a specific type of criminal threat, one that is more likely to result in serious penalties.

The following are two of the main elements of a criminal threat:

  • Intent: A criminal threat must be made with the intent to cause fear of injury or death in another person. The recipient of the threat does not necessarily have actually be afraid — only the intent of the person making the threat matters. In a criminal case, this intent is usually deciphered by analyzing the circumstances of the alleged threat.
  • Specificity: A threat cannot be considered criminal if it is either unreasonable or vague. Instead, it must be a specific, credible threat that could truly make a person hearing it feel as though he or she could be in danger. A person who threatens to fire off a nuclear bomb, for example, is not making a credible threat.

Courts may impose a number of penalties in cases of criminal threats, depending on the severity of the threat and the circumstances of the case. A conviction could lead to substantial jail time, along with large fines and probation time.

For more information on what constitutes a criminal threat and how you can defend yourself against such charges, work with a skilled La Plata criminal defense lawyer at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A.

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