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The Crime of Threatening to Commit a Crime in Massachusetts

Posted on October 29, 2021 in

Many people do not realize that in Massachusetts, threatening to commit a crime is a crime in itself. It is a potentially serious crime that can result in a jail or prison sentence based on the nature of the crime threatened. If you find yourself accused of threatening to commit a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney at Spring & Spring without delay for a legal consultation. Our attorneys can help you take immediate steps to protect your legal rights.

What Does the Law Say?

Understanding the exact language of the law is critical if you are facing any type of criminal charge in Massachusetts. It can allow you or your attorney to find a way to prove that you did not actually commit the crime in question. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 275, Section 2, allows a complaint to be brought to a court or justice regarding a person who has threatened to commit a crime against the person or property of another person. 

If such a complaint is brought, the court will examine the person who filed the complaint and any available witnesses to put the complaint in writing and pursue legal action against the defendant, if applicable. The law goes on to say that if there is sufficient evidence to support that the complainant had just cause to fear that the crime threatened may be committed, the person who made the threat can be arrested and face criminal charges.

In other words, if someone threatens to commit a crime in such a way that puts the subject of the threat in reasonable fear that the crime will be committed, this is a crime itself in Massachusetts – even if the person never follows through on committing the crime threatened. It is enough to put a victim in fear of imminent bodily harm or property damage to arrest a person for threatening to commit a crime.

What Are the Penalties for Threatening to Commit a Crime?

If the criminal courts find enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant threatened to commit a crime, the defendant can face serious legal penalties, including a fine of up to $100 maximum and/or imprisonment for up to six months. 

As an alternative to jail time, the court may decide to order the defendant to give a sum of money to the complainant to keep the peace within the Commonwealth. The term of the sum may not exceed six months. If the defendant refuses, he or she can go to jail instead. With good cause, the courts can revoke the order early, reduce the amount of the recognizance or order that it be taken without surety. 

The exact sentence decided upon can depend on factors such as the nature of the crime that was threatened and the defendant’s past criminal history. If the crime in question was a serious or violent crime, for example, such as physical assault or murder, this could increase the penalties faced by the defendant for making the threat. The penalties can also increase for a defendant with a criminal record, or if this is the defendant’s second or subsequent conviction for threatening to commit a crime.

When to Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Massachusetts

It may be possible to defend yourself against allegations of threatening to commit a crime in Massachusetts with the right defense strategy. For example, you or your attorney may be able to claim that you were within your right to free speech, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution. You may also be able to assert that your words did not rise to the level of a threat, were not meant to be a threat or were taken out of context. 

An experienced Winchester criminal defense lawyer can help you create the strongest possible defense strategy for your specific situation. This can reduce your risk of being convicted and doing time for this crime.