Making a threat towards someone can be a criminal offence under certain circumstances.
Depending on the nature of the threat and who it is made to, you can face a number of different penalties for threatening a person, from a fine or good behaviour bond to imprisonment.
The penalty for threatening a person varies depending on what the police charge you with when they are making an arrest.
This will depend on the situation and what your relationship is with the person who you allegedly threatened.
The penalty you get will also depend on whether your matter is being dealt with in the local court or a higher court such as the district court.
Generally, matters that are dealt with summarily in the local court come with a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, whereas in the district court you could face up to five years’ imprisonment if you are found guilty.
If you threaten a person with whom you have a personal or domestic relationship, they may be able to take out an apprehended violence order against you.
Although this isn’t a criminal charge, it can restrict your lifestyle and prevent you from going to certain locations, contacting the alleged victim and owning a firearm.
What court will my matter be heard in?
The court you go to will depend on how serious the offence is, whether you or the prosecution elects to have the matter heard in a higher court, and whether you are alleged to have committed a Commonwealth offence (like threatening a Commonwealth official).
Serious commonwealth offences are often heard in the higher courts and come with higher maximum penalties than if they were dealt with in the local court.
Many state offences are considered summary offences which means they can only be heard in a local court and the maximum penalty is less than for other courts.
These include common assault charges (which can also be used for threatening behaviour and verbal threats). Intimidating is another summary offence which is dealt with in the local court.
Some other offences are considered more serious and can be dealt with in the district court.
These include threatening property and more serious forms of assault.
Threatening property comes with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
District court trials are normally held in front of a jury and judge instead of judge alone. However, in some circumstances where the issues are complex and there is substantial expert evidence that is difficult to understand you may be able to get a judge-alone trial in the district court.
Your lawyer will be able to advise you if this is likely to be the case.
How can I have my penalty reduced?
If you decide to plead guilty to a charge of threatening a person, you can still present strong reasons for you to be treated leniently.
This may even help convince the judge or magistrate not to record a criminal conviction against you at all.
When deciding on a penalty, the court will look at a number of different factors, including:
- Your relationship with the alleged victim and any previous history of conflict between you.
- Any extenuating circumstances which may have contributed to the alleged threats being made.
- Whether you were going through any difficult personal circumstances at the time or whether you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Any mental health issues you were experiencing at the time.
- Any previous history you have of threatening behaviour or violent offences.
- The impact of any specific penalty upon you, including the impact of a criminal conviction.
Even if the penalty isn’t severe, having a criminal record can significantly impact you in the future.
If you are facing charges of threatening a person, it is advisable that you contact an experienced criminal lawyer for guidance as to your options and the likely outcome.