The right to free speech is covered by the First Amendment, and people of all political stripes are quick to defend it. But what does speech mean in constitutional law? There are, in fact, limits to what you can say. In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled that speech that causes or incites harm to others is not protected. You may have heard of the example that you don't have the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
As another example, just because you have the right to free speech does not mean that you have the right to verbally threaten and intimidate a person. In fact, doing so is considered a crime in Arizona.
Threats and Intimidation
It is illegal to threaten or intimidate violence in Arizona as well as to threaten serious property damage. In fact, the act of threatening or intimidation does not require any physical contact for it to be considered a crime. Doing so is considered a serious offense under the state's Threatening or Intimidating Statute and can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the severity of the case.
Domestic Violence Threatening and Intimidating
In most cases, threatening or intimidating is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. Threats and intimidation occur most commonly in domestic cases. Prosecutors often tack these charges onto other domestic violence charges, making the potential sentence more severe as the combined charges add up.
In Arizona, you have a right to record conversations you're involved in without the other person knowing. If you are with a partner and he or she threatens to call the police even though you are not hurting or threatening them or their property, recording the audio could help you. However, he said/she said cases are difficult to prove, so even if all you have is your memory of a conversation, your defense attorney can help you clear those charges.
Threatening and Intimidating Felony Charges
In rare cases, threats or intimidation can result in class 6 felony charges. This can occur if the defendant made a threat of violence as a way to retaliate on a victim who has reported criminal conduct (or “snitched”). Class 6 felony charges will also be brought up if the defendant is a gang member. It could become a class 3 felony charge if the defendant threatened or intimidated the victim as a way to promote the gang or get the victim to participate in the gang.
If you have been charged with an act of intimidation or threatening someone, contact Garcia Law, PLLC for a professional legal consultation today.