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Is It Illegal To Threaten Someone?


You see, the line between the reach of the First Amendment and what would amount to a crime at times seems fuzzy. But when it comes to threatening, the law is clear that it amounts to some threats that may pose criminal charges. This post has made an attempt to discuss at length what threatens to be illegal, the legal criteria involved, and the likely penalties to be faced by an individual in such cases. So let’s see if it is really illegal to threaten someone or not.

Is It Illegal To Threaten Someone

Understanding True Threats

A true threat is something said by the speaker that would lead a reasonable person in the listener’s position to be in fear of bodily injury or worse. But again, it is necessary to see here that not all threats are viewed with the same scrutiny under the eyes of the law. Whether a statement is a true threat involves consideration of various things like why the person made the statement, the situation in which it was made, and if it appeared likely that he could actually carry it out. A big court in the U.S., the Supreme Court, has had a lot to say about what counts as a true threat. Virginia v. Black, the renowned 2003 ruling where the Court said that true threats are those where a person is seriously meaning to say that one wants to do something of a violent and unlawful nature.

Legal Criteria for Threats

For it to amount to a threat to get you in trouble with the law, it clearly has to be, and, in particular, there must be actual intent to scare or harm and the apparent possibility that the person could execute what he threatens to do. The law considers every kind of threat from the clear and unequivocal to even half-concealed or conditional ones and weighs them by their quantum of terror.

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Penalties for Making Threats

Penalties vary greatly for threats, from smaller fines and a little jail time on one hand to big prison sentences on the other. In California, for example, it is a wobbler crime to issue a really serious threat, for which you may be sentenced to jail for up to four years, and it would count as a major strike against you, according to the law. In Texas, the penalties can also be pretty harsh, with the possibility of big fines and jail time.

Wrapping It Up

Now, whether or not it’s okay to threaten in the US makes quite a little iffy: it is caught between our freedom to say what is on our minds and the need for everybody to be safe from harm. We have a lot of leeway in what we say, but that doesn’t mean we’re covered when our words are meant to scare or cause violence. A person has to know the law on a threat, how it can differ in the place where he or she lives, and the possible consequences if a person is caught making a threat.


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