Is Making a Threat Illegal? How Far is Too Far?

Is Making a Threat Illegal? How Far is Too Far?

Many people have made joking or hyperbolic statements about wanting to hurt someone else. Usually, everyone present knows it’s a joke, and the situation ends there.

But what if someone takes you seriously?

Could you be charged with a crime?

In Colorado, you could be charged with menacing if your statement causes someone to fear for his or her own safety or believes you intend to do bodily harm—even if you take no action at the time that appears threatening

If this happens, it is crucial that you schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you make your case.

Consequences for Making a Threat

Depending on what crime you’re ultimately charged with, you could be dealing with a Class 3 misdemeanor, a Class 5 felony, or a Class 4 felony for making a criminal threat.

If you are convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado, you could be sentenced to one or more of the following:

  • Up to 364 days in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

If you are convicted of a Class 5 felony, you could be sentenced to:

  • One to three years in prison
  • A fine of $1,000–$100,000

Class 4 is a more severe category of felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to:

  • Two to six years in prison
  • A fine of $2,000–$500,000

In addition to fines and jail time, being convicted of a felony can have severe lifelong consequences. Felons can’t buy or carry guns and are usually restricted from holding specific jobs, like teaching or working as an attorney or police officer.

In Colorado, you will regain the right to vote only after you’ve completed your prison sentence; you won’t be able to vote while in prison.

What Charges Could You Face?

The crime you would most likely be charged within Colorado for making a threat is called menacing. To commit menacing, a person intentionally makes someone else believe they are at risk of “imminent serious bodily injury.” Serious bodily injury can cover anything from life-threatening injuries to broken bones.

If you used a deadly weapon in a threatening manner or the victim reasonably believed you intended to use a deadly weapon, menacing could become a Class 5 felony. That means you could potentially be charged with a felony if the other person believed you were armed with a deadly weapon, even if you weren’t. Also, a deadly weapon doesn’t have to be a gun. It can also refer to items like baseball bats that have perfectly innocent functions.

Finally, if you make a threat and follow it with repeated, unwanted contact with the other person, you could be charged with stalking. Stalking is a Class 5 felony or a more severe Class 4 felony if it’s not your first offense.

Aggravating Factors

The legal consequences for making a threat are more severe if a weapon was involved and if the threat was followed up by unwanted contact or communication, such as verbal assault. Both factors can result in being charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Mitigating Factors

To charge you with a crime for making a threat, a prosecutor must prove that you intended to cause the other person to fear for their safety. If you can establish that you didn’t intend for your statement to be taken seriously, you’ll have better results. You’ll also be more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony if you can show that you didn’t have or mention a deadly weapon and that you didn’t stalk the other person after the threat. You’re also less likely to face severe consequences if you haven’t been convicted of a crime before.

Going to Court

Depending on the specifics of your case, you’ll either go to County Court or District Court in Colorado. Either way, your attorney will advise you about what to say to make the best argument for your defense. Many criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains, so you may not go to trial, especially if it is your first offense.

You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

You’re potentially facing severe consequences if you’ve been charged with menacing or stalking. Don’t try to deal with criminal charges on your own. An attorney can help you present the best defense and get the best possible results for your situation. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney now.

FAQs About Making Threats

Is threatening someone a crime?

If you intentionally make someone else fear for their physical safety, you could be charged with the crime of menacing.

Is making a threat a felony or a misdemeanor?

Making a threat is usually a misdemeanor unless the situation involves a deadly weapon, the threat of a deadly weapon, or stalking. Both of these can lead to felony charges.

Can you go to jail for making a threat?

Depending on the crime with which you are charged, you could face a sentence of anywhere from 364 days to six years for menacing or stalking.

Author Bio

alexis austin

Alexis Austin is the CEO and Managing Partner of Right Law Group, a criminal defense law firm she founded in 2018, with convenient locations in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch. With almost a decade of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Alexis received her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver — Sturm College of Law and is a member of the Colorado Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “Top 40 Under 40” in 2018 by The National Trial Lawyers and featured in Authority Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” series.

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