It is a crime to intimidate or threaten violence under Arizona’s Threatening or Intimidating Statute; it is also illegal to threaten serious damage to property. Under ARS 13-1202, threatening or intimidating is a serious offense that’s charged either as a felony, depending on the circumstances.
With the charge, there does not have to be physical contact to the alleged property or victim. The victim simply has to report a genuine threat. Threatening or intimidating does not even require that the victim experienced any fear.
Threatening or intimidating cases typically arise from uncorroborated claims from biased victims. The allegation of threat may even be made up, blown out of proportion, or simply exaggerated. The victim may report the charge out of frustration, vindication, or anger as opposed to a genuine concern for property or safety.
Under ARS 13-1202(A)(1), threatening or intimidating is typically charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. It can be charged as a Class 6 felony in some rare cases when it is alleged that the threat was made in retaliation to a victim reporting criminal conduct Threatening or intimidating can also be charged as a a Class 6 felony when it involves criminal street gangs. It can be charged under ARS 13-1202(A)(3) as a Class 3 felony if made to promote the gang or to get a person to participate in gang activities.
The threatening and intimidating charge, however, is most common in domestic abuse cases and those are typically filed as misdemeanors
Penalties for Threatening or Intimidating Under Arizona Law
Misdemeanor Threatening or Intimidating
Threatening or intimidating is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor where the person committing the offense, either by word or conduct, threatens to cause physical injury to another person or serious damage to another’s property. The threat is also a Class 1 misdemeanor where the person causes, or in reckless disregard to causing, serious public inconvenience including, but not limited to, evacuation of a building, place of assembly or transportation facility. A Class 1 misdemeanor carries up to a 6-month jail term, $4500 in fines and surcharges, as well as up to 3 years of probation. If it is charged as a domestic abuse offense, the defendant may lose their gun rights and be required to take mandatory domestic violence classes.
Felony Threatening or Intimidating
Threatening or intimidating can be charged as a Class 6 felony if the alleged threat or intimidation is made in retaliation to the reporting of a crime, such as in a domestic violence or assault situation. It carries up to a 2-year prison sentence on a first offense. The most serious penalties are in Class 3 felony cases. On a first offense, the defendant may face a prison sentence of up to 8.75 years.
Defenses to Threatening or Intimidating Charges
No Threat Was Actually Made
Charges may be fabricated at times, particularly in domestic violence cases. Anger, blame shifting, vengeance, custody, divorce, and cheating are some of the most common motivators in most cases. Drugs and alcohol can also lead to distorted or exaggerated claims.
It Was Not a Genuine Threat
The State is not necessarily required to demonstrate that the defendant acted with wrongful intent, had the ability to actually carry out the threat, or planned to carry out the threat, but it still has to prove a “threat” was communicated.
The Alleged Threat Is Not Criminal
A huge difference exists between criminal conduct and rude/offensive behavior. Arizona criminalizes behavior that involves violence, fighting, and genuine threats. However, it does not label people as criminals because they lack control/ respect or they act rude/offensive.
In Arizona, people are allowed to threaten physical force if it seems reasonably necessary to protect against the attempted or actual use of unlawful physical force. Threatening and intimidation is mostly justified when facing physical force to deter that violence.
1st Amendment Rights
The 1st and 4th Amendments of the United States Constitution protect free speech. However, free speech is not absolute. “Fighting words” are not permitted under the law. Fighting words are those likely to provoke a violent reaction in regular people. Crude/vulgar language might be protected under the law, but fighting words are not.
Is threatening someone a crime in Arizona? Yes, it is, and it depends on the circumstances. If in doubt, it is always advisable to consult a criminal defense lawyer to make your case. If you find yourself facing threatening and intimidating charges, get in touch with an experienced lawyer to help with your defense.