Threats to Commit a crime is a misdemeanor crime in Massachusetts. It is defined in Mass. General Laws c. 275, § 2. For the prosecutor to get a conviction for threats to commit a crime four things must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant expressed an intent to injure a person, or property of another, now or in the future;
- That the defendant intended that his (her) threat be conveyed to a particular person;
- That the injury that was threatened, if carried out, would constitute a crime; and
- That the defendant made the threat under circumstances which could reasonably have caused the person to whom it was conveyed to fear that the defendant had both the intention and the ability to carry out the threat.
What is the Maximum Penalty for Threats to Commit a Crime in Massachusetts?
Anyone convicted of making threats to commit a crime against a person or property of another is a fine of $100 or 6 months in the House of Correction.
What’s a threat to commit a crime in Massachusetts?
In order for something to be considered a threat, it must be more than a mere statement of intention. According to Massachusetts courts, a threat must represent “both intention and ability in circumstances which would justify apprehension on the part of the recipient of the threat.”
In order to be convicted of a threat charge in MA, the context and circumstances must be examined in determining whether something is considered a threat or not. Massachusetts courts have ruled that a threat must represent “both intention and ability in circumstances which would justify apprehension on the part of the recipient of the threat.” Courts have ruled that a threat is not limited to words spoken. Pictures drawn by a defendant have met the definition of a threat. A person was even convicted of making threats based on his demeanor and tone of voice.
There can be a conviction for a threat charge even where there was no explicit statement of intention to harm as long as circumstances support the victim’s fearful or apprehensive reaction.
The inability to inflict immediate harm does not stop a conviction for threats. As long as the victim believes the threat may be carried out in the future then that is considered a valid threat.
Finally, threats do not have to be communicated directly to the victim. As long as the person making the threats intended a third party communicates the threat to a victim then they may be found guilty of the crime.
Threats and Domestic Violence
In cases of domestic violence, threats are not considered “abuse” as defined in G.L. c. 209A, § 1.
Because a threat is not considered abuse police cannot just arrest someone. Police may only arrest someone for threats if they 1.) witness it first-hand or 2.) get an arrest warrant. Otherwise, the police may summons someone to court rather than arrest them.
Defenses to Threats Charges
There are many defenses to a threats charge. However, threats are not considered to be part of free speech. In fact, Massachusetts courts have ruled that there is no first amendment protection regarding threats. A threat is also not a private marital conversation and is not protected by the marital privilege. It is not a legal defense in Massachusetts that the recipient of the threat is also the victim of the threatened crime.
It is not a defense to say that the defendant might not carry out as long as the words reasonably cause apprehension on the part of their recipient it is considered a threat in Massachusetts.
Experienced Threats to Commit a Crime Attorney
Patrick Donovan, a former prosecutor, has appeared in over fifty criminal courts in Massachusetts. Ma Criminal Attorney Donovan offers a free consultation to anyone charged with threats to commit a crime. As a criminal attorney, Mr. Donovan fights to get each of his clients the best possible outcome for their case.