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Threat to Commit a Crime

Threatening to commit a crime is a serious crime in Massachusetts that could result in a jail sentence.

Elements of Threatening to Commit a Crime

In order to convict a defendant of threatening to commit a crime, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant communicated his or her intention to injure the alleged victim, or damage the alleged victim’s property, now or sometime in the future;
  2. If the threat was carried out, it would constitute a criminal offense; and
  3. It was reasonable for the alleged victim to fear that the defendant both intended to, and had the ability to, follow through on the threat, given the circumstances under which the defendant made the threat.

It is not required that the alleged victim actually became apprehensive as a result of the threat. The issue is whether the defendant made the threat under circumstances which could reasonably have caused the alleged victim to fear that the defendant had both the intention and the ability to carry out the threat.

It is possible for the defendant to be convicted of threatening to commit a crime even if he did not personally and directly threaten the victim. The Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that if a defendant makes a threat to a third party, who then passes along the threat to the intended victim, the defendant can be convicted of the threat. In that situation, however, the Commonwealth is required to prove that the defendant intended to communicate the threat to the third party who acted as the intermediary.

Common Defense Strategies

There are several possible defense strategies in threats cases.

Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record

Attorney Spring files motions in every case to obtain the criminal record of all of the Commonwealth’s witnesses.  If any witness has been convicted of a crime, there is a possibility that Attorney Spring will be able to introduce the conviction to the jury.  Attorney Spring will also investigate whether the Commonwealth’s witnesses have engaged in their own violent conduct.  If so, such evidence may be admitted in court as “prior bad act” evidence.

Bias

In the majority of threats cases, there is a history of bad blood between the alleged victim and the defendant.  Naturally, the alleged victim sees the criminal case as an opportunity to punish the defendant through the legal system.  When the alleged victim testifies, Attorney Spring will confront him on cross-examination about any biases he has toward the defendant, and then argue to the jury that the alleged victim should not be believed as a result of those biases.

Emotionally Charged

Threats cases are emotionally charged because they often involve long-standing grievances between the parties. Whether the charges result from the end of a long romantic relationship or years’ worth of bad feelings between neighbors, the allegations are typically ugly and the alleged victims are ordinarily very invested in the case. Even if the threat is made between strangers (in a road rage case, for example), the victim is usually anxious to see the defendant punished. Therefore, most of these cases go to trial.

Contact Us

Middlesex County criminal defense attorney Chris Spring prosecuted threats cases when he served as an assistant district attorney early in his career, and he has successfully defended clients charged with threats since founding Spring & Spring. He has the knowledge and experience to aggressively defend you if you have been charged with threatening to commit a crime, strangulation, or intimidation of a witness.