A threat is a statement of a person to frighten or intimidate a person or group of people to either harm or cause damage. It is an action prohibited by most Federal and State criminal laws. In most countries, threatening is associated with various crimes like extortion or threatening someone to gain something from an individual. However, is it illegal to threaten someone with a lawsuit? It can be considered illegal or not, depending on the situation.
Threatening to sue someone with a civil lawsuit is not a problem, but it can be subjected to illegal harassment if it is meaningless. An empty threat with a lawsuit is considered illegal when the person suing does not hold anything against the person. The threat can also be considered harassment if the threatening person did not go through the civil lawsuit process. In conclusion, threatening someone with a lawsuit is not illegal unless it is meaningless.
Is threatening to file criminal charges illegal?
A person who threatens someone to file criminal charges is illegal regardless if the person is a lawyer, debtor, or one of the public. For the public members, threatening to press charges against someone to take advantage of the situation can be considered a crime. It can be subjected to extortion which is punished mainly by a fine or imprisonment depending on the offense level.
Suppose the case involves a lawyer threatening the other involved parties to initiate criminal charges to gain something from the act. In that case, it can also be a subject of discipline. However, the disciplinary measure will depend on the kind of threat imposed by the lawyer and the jurisdiction.
One of the common scenarios about threatening to file criminal charges is between a debt collector and the debtor. In most cases, it can also be illegal for collectors to threaten a person who did not pay the debt on time.
How to know if the threat can be subjected to a crime?
When it comes to knowing if a threat is can be charged as a crime, the following elements should be taken into consideration:
- A threat is considered a crime if there is a severe intent of harming or killing the person when the speaker states the threat.
- If the threat was stated through verbal, written, and electronic communication, it should also be considered a threat to be charged as a crime.
- It can be charged as a crime if the statement is intended to sound understood as a threat.
- The present ability of a person to carry out a threat is also considered.
- It should also be considered if the threatened person has feared for their safety and the safety of the people around him/ her.
Therefore, if all the elements are present in the alleged threat, it can be considered a crime, and the threatened party can press charges against the speaker.
What are the Charges for a Criminal Threat?
Once a threat is deemed a criminal act, and all the above elements are considered. It can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the prosecutors. Most of the time, if a person is arrested for a misdemeanor criminal threat, he or she will face the punishment of a $1000 fine and jail time of up to one year. On the other hand, if the prosecutor decides to convict the accused of a felony, the fine to pay is up to $10,000, and they will be sentenced to three years in prison.
How to Respond When Someone Threatens Legal Charges
Sometimes receiving a threat of pressing charges against you can be terrifying, especially if it’s not true. So, it’s best to understand how you should respond when you receive a threat in the form of a letter or email.
- If it’s a letter or email, ensure that you carefully read and understand the content and context of the letter. You should identify if the letter intends to threaten you.
- It’s also essential to check the sender of the letter or email and see if you know the sender or not.
- Once you’ve analyzed the letter’s content and the situation, think of the best option to address the problem.
- Consider consulting experts’ advice to give you more options of what to do in your situation.