Threat to Commit Crime
As children, we learn that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” However, in certain situations, threatening words can result in criminal liability. In Massachusetts, it is a crime to threaten to commit a crime. If you were arrested for making a threat to commit a crime, reach out to the Law Offices of Patrick J. Murphy. Patrick Murphy is a veteran Boston criminal defense attorney with more than 25 years of experience defending clients charged with all types of crimes. With his knowledge, experience, and dedication behind you, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.What Is a Threat to Commit a Crime?
The First Amendment protects the right to free speech. However, over the years, courts have carved out certain exceptions to the general rule that someone cannot face prosecution for their words or expressions. For example, the First Amendment does not protect certain categories of speech, including child pornography, obscenity, and true threats.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to threaten to commit a crime. However, not all threatening language is criminal. Before a judge or jury can convict you of making a threat to commit a crime, the prosecution must establish each of the following elements:
- You made a threat;
- The threat was directed at another person;
- The threat, if carried out, would be a crime; and
- It is reasonable to believe you had the intent and ability to carry through with the threat.
The prosecution must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, this involves having the person receiving the threat testify in court. However, if someone else, such as a police officer, witnessed the threat, they could also testify.Punishments for Threat to Commit Crime
If you are arrested for threatening to commit a crime, you will face misdemeanor charges. The maximum penalty for this offense is six months in jail and a fine of up to $100. However, with the assistance of an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer, the judge may sentence you to probation or suspend the sentence altogether.Defenses to Threatening a Crime
The most common way to defend against allegations that you threatened to commit a crime is to attack the elements of the offense. For example, if your threatening language was a joke, or you did not have the ability to carry out the threat, you cannot be found guilty. Along those lines, if you got into an argument with a stranger on the street and threatened to blow up their home, it may not be reasonable for the stranger to assume that you had the ability to do so. On the other hand, if you threatened to shoot them as you had your hand in your pocket, this may be a credible threat.
Another defense involves the context in which you made the threat. Conditional threats or those involving extreme or far-fetched language are not typically criminal. A conditional threat is one in which you threaten to do something only if something else happens first. For example, in a famous Supreme Court case, the defendant faced charges for threatening then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. In that case, the defendant was at a Vietnam War protest when he stated, “if they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.” The Court found this language, while threatening, was not a true threat because it was conditional and based on political hyperbole.Are You Charged with Making a Threat to Commit Crime?
If you’ve been arrested and charged with making criminal threats in Boston, it may be easy to shrug off the allegations as minor. However, a criminal conviction can stay with you for life, and you should do everything possible to protect your future. Attorney Patrick Murphy can help. When it comes to his extensive experience, advanced knowledge of the law and unwavering dedication to his clients, Patrick Murphy is unique among Boston criminal defense attorneys. He represents clients in all types of abuse-related offenses, including domestic violence crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call (617) 367-0450 today.