Is a Threat a Crime in Arizona?

is a threat a crimeIn the heat of an argument, you can threaten someone without thinking twice. A threat, however, could have legal repercussions in Arizona. Threatening or intimidating someone can be classified as a criminal activity in a specific set of circumstances.

Arizona Threatening and Intimidating Laws

Arizona Revised Statute 13-1202 provides a detailed definition of the crime of threatening someone.

A person can threaten or intimidate somebody else by words or conduct. The crime of threatening and intimidating occurs whenever someone intends to:

  • Cause serious injury to another person
  • Cause serious property damage
  • Cause a serious public inconvenience
  • Cause serious injury or property damage to promote the activities of a criminal gang or a racketeering enterprise

Thus, the threat should focus on some serious intent to cause harm and damage. Depending on the threat’s scope and gravity, it will be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor offense.

In the first two cases above, threatening will be classified as a misdemeanor. There are only a few exceptions in which cases the person will be committing a Class 6 felony. These exceptions include an offense committed in retaliation for somebody’s report of criminal activity and a perpetrator being a criminal street gang member.

Whenever someone threatens in a relationship to promoting the activity of a criminal gang (the third bullet point), they will be committing a Class 3 felony.

Proving Criminal Threatening

Most often, people will report that they’ve been threatened on a “he said, she said” basis. Such personal accounts are commonly not supported by evidence, which makes it impossible to charge somebody with criminal activity.

It’s also important to point out that people have their subjective view of the situation. Words that somebody perceives as harmless could be experienced as a threat by somebody else.

A threat can be proven and established as criminal when there’s evidence of it. Sending your former boss an email that you’re going to harm their family because you were fired will be sufficient evidence to have criminal charges pressed against you.

The victim of a criminal threat could also rely on witness accounts and recordings to establish the gravity of the situation and the scope of the intimidation.

Common Defense Scenarios

Because of the subjective nature of criminal threats, an aggressive defense strategy may be required to get a positive outcome out of the criminal proceedings. If you’ve been charged with threatening or intimidating someone, you will need to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Your Arizona criminal lawyer will pinpoint the defense strategy bound to give you the best possible outcome.

The prosecution will have to prove that the defendant communicated a true threat. This means that a reasonable person would have perceived the statement as a serious expression of someone’s intent to inflict harm or damage. Only true threats are perceived as criminal in Arizona. The prosecution may find it quite challenging to establish the true nature of the threat, providing the defense with an opportunity to get the case dismissed.

A second possible defense scenario involves proving that the defendant didn’t make a threat. Whenever domestic violence occurs or people get in a heated argument, they will want to get back at each other. Thus, reports of criminal threatening could be untrue and entirely fabricated.

There are several other common defenses. One of them is showing that the threat made by the defendant isn’t criminal. Being rude is not the same as making one of the threats pinpointed in A.R.S. 13-1202.

Finally, the lawyer could opt for a self-defense, a defense of others or a constitutional violation strategy. A Miranda violation, for example, can be used to suppress evidence and entirely dismiss the criminal charges altogether.

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