Domestic Violence Through Terrorist Threats

Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat,

Even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and

Thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family's safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

“immediate family” means any spouse, whether by marriage or not, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the prior six months, regularly resided in the household.

“Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

A terroristic threatening statute imposes criminal liability for the use of words; and threats that may be made by innuendo and the circumstances taken into account in deciding whether the words used constitute a threat. Thus, a communication, either verbal or nonverbal, is sufficient to be a threat under a terrorizing statute if a reasonable person could conclude that it was a threat under the circumstances. Furthermore, it is not required that the threat be written or oral, but can be inferred from a physical act. On the other hand, under some statutes, a verbal statement is required for a conviction of making a terroristic threat.

That is the problem and complication of the Criminal Threats Statute. A mere slashing of the throat can be enough to get charged with criminal threats. The statute does not punish emotional outbursts but acts that would instill fear. Even threatened as if imitating the use of a handgun while stating they have killed in the past can be enough to be charged with criminal threats.

The connection to Domestic violence is quite close as often a party involved in a domestic dispute will state something along with a gesture that can instill fear such that a reasonable person would fear harm.

This is a specific intent crime which requires the prosecution to demonstrate to a jury that the person who made the remark or threat intended a certain result. Therefore, to prove that someone intended a specific result creates an extra burden on the prosecution to get a conviction on this type of crime.

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