Bad Words and Where They Often Lead: D.C. Threats & Simple Assault

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Bad Words and Where They Often Lead: D.C. Threats & Simple Assault

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Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. While that may be true on the playground, Washington, D.C. lawmakers see things a little differently. In the District of Columbia, the law recognizes that words have power, and words that threaten others can be very powerful. Consequently, when you use words intended to communicate threats to others, you could be facing misdemeanor and even felony D.C. Threats charges.

To convict you of misdemeanor or felony threats, the government must prove that you (1) intentionally (2) communicated threatening words to another that would (3) cause a person to reasonably believe that they would be seriously harmed if you carried out your threat.

 

Breaking it down—(1) Intentionally doesn’t mean that you intended to carry out the threats or that you even intended for your words to be threatening, only that you intended to say or write the words.  (2) Communication means any form of relaying the message including spoken (in person or over the phone), written (letter, email, or text), or any other form of communication.  (3) A person’s reasonable belief of serious harm means any person’s reasonable belief, not just the person you threatened.  Technically, the person you threatened doesn’t even have to hear the words you uttered or have learned about them later.  It’s enough if someone heard your words and those words could cause any reasonable person to believe that they would be seriously harmed if you carried out your threat.

Generally, threats is charged as a misdemeanor in the District of Columbia, and punished by up to 6 months in jail. But when the words are of such a nature to put a reasonable person in fear of being kidnapped or seriously injured or of having his or her property damaged, it may be charged as a felony, and punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

It is often the case, especially in domestic violence situations, that people say things they don’t really mean.  This is why the finder of fact must determine if your words were a “true threat” and not just “idle talk” or “jest.”  In order to do this, the fact-finder considers the surrounding circumstances, facial expressions, body language, tone and inflection, punctuation, and other ways of giving words meaning, and the nature of the relationship between the parties. A Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer will almost always argue that the words never meant to communicate an actual threat.

But when mere words become physical, you could find yourself facing D.C. Simple Assault charges.To be convicted of simple assault, the government must prove that you (1) intentionally acted (2) to injure or attempt to injure another person and (3) that you had the apparent ability to injure that person.

Breaking it down—(1) Intentionally doesn’t mean that you intended to injure another person, only that you intended to do the threatening act.  Unlike in D.C. Threats cases, however, mere words are not sufficient to prove that you intended to do the threatening act.  (2) Injury means any physical injury no matter how small.  (3) Apparent ability to injure means that your actions, whether attempted or threatened, could make a reasonable person fear immediate bodily harm.

In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for making threats or for simple assault, it is imperative that you hire a skilled D.C. Threats attorney or a D.C. Simple Assault lawyer.  Attorney Jay P. Mykytiuk, understands that words are often taken out of context and that actions are frequently misconstrued.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for D.C. Threats or D.C. Simple Assault, contact Jay P. Mykytiuk immediately for a consultation.