What is legally considered a threat?


Uttering a threat requires that a person knowingly utter a threat, convey a threat, or cause a person to receive a threat. A threat is any words, written messages or actions that threaten bodily harm, death, damage to real or personal property, or any injury or death to any animal belonging to that person. A threat can include those that are conditional on the person doing something or failing to do something. For example, saying, “if you do not get me my money, I will hurt you.”

WHAT IF I DID NOT SAY THE THREAT OUT LOUD?

To be convicted for uttering a threat, the threat does not have to be verbal. For example, uttering a threat can include any written threats, like threats received through text messages or social media. Additionally, a threat can also be a physical act, such as doing a throat slashing gesture towards someone.

I DO NOT KNOW AND HAVE EVER HAD DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE PERSON I AM BEING CHARGED WITH THREATENING. CAN I STILL BE CHARGED?

Knowing or having an established relationship with the person that was threatened is not a requirement to be charged with uttering threats. Even indirect means of uttering threats like through a personal blog post on your own website or YouTube video can cause you to be charged. In fact, even if the person you threatened was never made aware of the threat, or did not take the threat seriously, you may still be charged with uttering threats.

I DID NOT THREATEN A SPECIFIC PERSON. CAN I BE CHARGED?

A threat does not need to be directed at someone specifically. A person can be convicted where they utter a threat at a member of an identifiable group. For example, threatening to go to a hospital and harming any doctor, or threatening to go to a Catholic church to harm a parishioner.

MY THREAT WAS NOT SERIOUS AND I DID NOT PLAN TO GO THROUGH WITH IT. CAN I BE CHARGED?

Unfortunately, the legal test for uttering a threat is not based on your intentions, but on the interpretation of your threat. You can be charged if a reasonable person would interpret your words, message or actions as threatening death, bodily harm or damage to real or personal property.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER FACTORS THAT WILL BE CONSIDERED WHEN CHARGED WITH UTTERING THREATS?

A number of factors can be considered by a judge when deciding to convict someone for uttering threats. Factors that will be considered will include:

  • The motivation for the accused uttering the threat.
  • The effect the threat had on the recipient(s).
  • The method the threat was conveyed.
  • The demeanor of the accused when the threat was uttered, including any related alcohol or drug consumption.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR UTTERING A THREAT?

The potential penalties for being convicted for uttering a threat vary depending on the seriousness of the threats. The range for penalty can be from a fine to jail time.

A conviction for uttering a threat may make it hard to find employment and could make your life difficult if the person you threaten is someone you regularly have contact with, such as a co-worker or neighbour.

If charged with uttering threats, call me today for a free consultation to discuss your case.