Is That Threat Really Idle? When to Take it Seriously
You walk into a bar and see your friend, with car keys in hand, reeling from the alcohol he has been consuming. You take the car keys out of his hand and tell him that he’s too drunk to drive. He gets angry, swears at you and says, “I’m going to punch you in the face!” He attempts to make a fist and falls back on a stool.
Your friend’s idle threat had no effect on you because he did not have the ability to stand up straight, let alone hit you with his fist. However, had your friend been sober and angry at you when he made the threat, you may have taken him seriously.
What is a Threat?
A threat is a statement that makes the person receiving the threat fear for his safety. Threats are made in anger by people who feel they are no longer in control of a person or a situation. These people want retaliation for the hurt, rejection or betrayal that they felt someone else inflicted upon them. Whether they actually carry out the threat is not for certain.
In contrast, an idle threat is an empty statement that the person who made it has no intention of carrying out. One example is a parent who threatens to take away their child’s favorite toy for misbehaving, but never does it. Over time, children usually ignore the threats, knowing from experience that nothing will come of them.
Taking Threats Seriously
If you are in an abusive relationship or have family members who have anger management or mental problems, you are more than likely to take their threats of harm seriously. For instance, a 34-year-old Minnesota man was arrested recently for abducting his former girlfriend in California, and holding her captive in a motel in Nevada for six months. Sheena Herschbach, 26, reportedly said she left Minnesota because Jason Greniger was abusive and threatened to kill her and her family members if she left him. She took his threats seriously.
There is also a rise in cyber threats through social media and online game rooms. It is calling into question whether a threat should be brushed off or authorities contacted. In 2013, a Texas teen was jailed for making a threat to shoot up a school of kids, while playing a multi-player video game. Though he insisted that he was only joking, other players felt threaten by his off-handed remark. This is a prime example of how challenging it is to prove whether a threat is idle or valid.
How Minnesota Handles Threats
Under Minnesota law, anyone who commits an act intending to cause fear of bodily harm or death in another person or who intentionally harms someone is guilty of fifth-degree assault. Depending on the circumstances, fifth-degree assault can be charged as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony with penalties ranging from 90 days in jail to up to five years in prison.
In light of the law, if you have threatened someone, you may face criminal charges if the person you threatened becomes afraid and notifies authorities. You may have made the threats in self-defense or because you were drunk or suffer from a mental illness. In this instance, it is best to consult a criminal defense attorney to avoid any further complicated legal problems.
Generally, threats have to be weighed based on the person who made them and the circumstances in which they were made. Because of the volatility of human behavior, you can no longer leave anything up to chance.
If you feel that your life is in danger because of a threat, notify the police immediately. If a person continues to threaten you, apply for a personal protection order. Also, maintain security around your home. The key is to stand up to the threats in a legal and lawful manner.
Jamica Bell is a freelance writer and blogger. She contributes this article to highlight the importance of identifying whether a threat is idle or serious. Information she obtained from the website http://www.devorelawoffice.com/, helped her to examine the legal consequences surrounding the offense of making threats.
Photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/8crav5
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