The Legal Issues of Threats in Texas
Sometimes, people let their words get the best of them. In the heat of the moment or in a fit of anger, we have all likely said some things that we regret. Unfortunately, you can’t take back some statements when you have cooled off and are thinking rationally. If you threaten another person in the state of Texas, you may end up facing criminal charges.
What exactly constitutes a threat in the eyes of the law? This is an important question with some very serious legal implications. Check out the rest of this article to find out what can happen if you threaten someone else in Texas.
What Is A Threat?
Under the law, a threat can take many forms. What may seem like a harmless series of words to one person may constitute a very serious threat in the eyes of another person. In general, however, a threat can lead to legal consequences if it meets the following criteria:
- It makes another person reasonably fear that they will suffer a bodily injury
- It makes another person reasonably fear for their life
- It makes another person reasonably fear their property is in danger of harm
So, according to the law, a threat is a statement or a physical action that places another person in a reasonable fear that their safety or the safety of their loved ones or property is in imminent danger of serious harm.
By the legal definition of a threat, a wide array of actions may be considered threatening. There is no legal requirement regarding the actual content of a criminal threat. Any statement or action that makes another person fear for their safety may legally be considered threatening behavior.
For example, Alex and Jamal are neighbors. They regularly have arguments about the line between their property. One day, Jamal starts to argue with Alex about this issue and the argument gets heated. Jamal tells Alex that he is going to beat him into a pulp. While doing so, he takes off his shirt, throws items around the yard and yells at the top of his voice. Alex goes inside to call the police and they arrest Jamal for assault.
In Texas, a person can be arrested and charged with assault even if they never lay a hand on another person. As long as they make another person reasonably fear for their safety, charges may be filed.
In another example, Robert has a crush on his co-worker Wanda. When Robert finds out that Wanda has a new boyfriend, he sends her emails threatening to beat up her new boyfriend. Wanda contacts the police, who arrest Robert for harassment and stalking.
Even though Robert did not physically attack anyone and he did not directly threaten Wanda, he can still be arrested because his threats were serious enough to make Wanda fear for the safety of her boyfriend.
Severity of Threats
In Texas, there are no specific laws regarding the content of threats or their relative severity. For example, a person who tells their co-worker that they are going to beat them up may face arrest for their threat just as someone who threatens to kill their co-worker. However, some circumstances can enhance the potential penalties for a threat.
For example, a person who threatens their neighbor while waving a gun may be charged with aggravated assault. This applies even if the gun is unloaded and no physical contact occurs.
Also, a person who threatens a peace officer, elected official or who threatens a large group of people may face enhanced charges. Threatening an elected official or a group of people may lead to charges of terroristic threats, which carry a much higher penalty.
In Texas, being convicted of threatening behavior can lead to severe consequences. For example, a simple assault conviction is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $4000
Being convicted of harassment is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000
Stalking is a very serious crime. A conviction for stalking is a felony of the third degree, punishable by:
- Two to 10 years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Any of these crimes can be enhanced if they include the use of a weapon or if the guilty party has been previously convicted of similar offenses. In addition, these crimes can lead to mandatory probation, restraining orders and court-ordered therapy or treatment programs.
In addition to legal penalties, the victims of these offenses may bring civil lawsuits against the person who threatened them.
Many legal defenses in cases involving threats will focus on the claims of the alleged victim. For instance, the defense may argue that there is no evidence to show that the plaintiff ever experienced any real fear for their safety. Since fear is a subjective emotional experience, the defense attorney may point out the plaintiff’s behavior as a sign that they were not actually in fear for their safety.
Are you or someone you know being charged with threatening another individual. A tough, experienced lawyer like Matthew Sharp can help protect your rights. Contact his office today at 713-868-6100.