Stamford Threatening Lawyer
In today’s hyper-connected world, communications fly at a fast and furious pace, especially among family members involved in heated arguments or a nasty divorce. If the words exchanged between individuals either electronically or in person can be interpreted as a threat in some manner, then the party on the receiving end of those statements may report the communications to the police, which may result in an arrest for Threatening Second Degree. This requires the skill of a talented attorney. Call a Stamford threatening lawyer for guidance.
What is First-Degree Threatening?
As a skilled Stamford attorney can attest, the crime of first-degree threatening / CGS 53a-61aa is a more serious offense and it occurs in one of two ways:
- When an individual commits an act of threatening that would otherwise be considered second-degree threatening, but during the course of the act the individual either uses a firearm or attempts or pretends to use such a weapon
- When an individual threatens to commit a crime of violence or a crime involving the use of a hazardous substance with either the specific intent of causing terror or evacuation of a building or public place or with reckless indifference as to the risk of causing terror, inconvenience or evacuation of a public place.
Threatening in the first degree is most often classified as a Class D felony. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine as high as $5,000. Just as with second-degree threatening, though, the severity increases if the offense is committed at a school. In that case, the offense is considered a Class C felony with a minimum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum sentence of ten years. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
Defining Second Degree Threatening
As a Stamford threatening attorney knows, the legal penal code set forth two versions of criminal threatening, first and second degree. Although the most commonly-charged threatening offense, Second Degree Threatening, is the less serious of the two, those convicted may still face substantial terms of imprisonment and large fines in addition to other consequences.
Second-degree threatening occurs when an individual either:
- Intentionally tries or succeeds in making another person believe that serious physical danger is imminent based on a physical threat
- Intentionally tries to terrorize another by threatening to commit a violent crime
- Threatens to commit a violent crime while acting with reckless disregard of the possibility of causing terror to another
Stamford arrests for Threatening Second Degree under CGS 53a-62 are generally classified as Class A misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. However, if the threatening is committed on school grounds, the offense escalates to a Class D felony and the maximum penalty increases to up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.
Why Is Threatening Not Considered Protected Speech?
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees, among other things, the right to free speech without fear of government reprisal, a promise which may seem at odds with the fact that someone can be convicted in criminal court for threatening someone else. Crucially, the First Amendment does not, and has never, guaranteed absolute free speech without any restrictions, and there are in fact various rules and legal precedents about “fighting words” that have been found constitutional over the years.
Previous court rulings across the U.S. have held that speech meant to directly incite violence, retaliation, or some other “imminent lawless action” is not constitutionally protected, nor is any statement that convincingly indicates both the capability and the intent to cause bodily harm to another person. This understanding of free speech is the foundation on which most criminal charges of threatening in Stamford are built.
Threatening as a Domestic Violence Offense
If someone is arrested for criminal threatening of a family member, household member, or current or former intimate partner, their offense may be considered domestic violence by the Connecticut court system. While this classification does not come with any additional criminal penalties or allow a court to enhance any sanctions passed down after a conviction, it does carry various consequences that could, depending on the circumstances, have an even greater impact on a defendant’s life than the actual criminal charge it came from.
First and foremost, a domestic violence designation for a threatening charge means that the early stages of the ensuing criminal case will proceed much more rapidly. As early as the morning of the next business day, which could be mere hours after an arrest is made or citation issued, the arrested individual may need to appear for arraignment and for an initial protective order hearing, the latter of which may end with a judge issuing various restrictions on what the defendant can do and where they can go in relation to the person they allegedly threatened, and possibly even whether they are allowed to have any contact whatsoever with that protected party.
This order will remain in place until the conclusion of the defendant’s criminal trial, at which point it could be nullified, extended, or even formalized into a standing criminal protective order. Furthermore, as a Stamford threatening attorney could affirm, any violation of a protective order’s term—accidental or intentional—could result in felony-level criminal consequences, even if the underlying threatening charge is just a misdemeanor.
Fighting Back Against Allegations of Threatening
Successfully contesting threatening charges often revolves around an proving that the defendant did not intentionally try to frighten or terrorize anyone with their statements, or that they did not realistically have the ability to commit a threatened crime to the extent that a reasonable person would fear imminent bodily harm. Either way, building a defense strong enough to overcome the prosecutor’s case in favor of conviction can require extensive documentary and testimonial evidence, including witness statements, police reports, text and email message logs, and even footage from surveillance cameras. Support from a knowledgeable threatening defense attorney in Stamford can be absolutely essential to collecting, compiling, and effectively presenting evidence that could minimize the risk of an unfavorable case outcome.
Speak with a Stamford CT Threatening Attorney
A top Stamford threatening lawyer, like the highly reviewed team at Mark Sherman Law, can advocate on your behalf during every step of the proceedings and take the necessary steps to help you reach an optimal outcome. Call our firm today to learn more.