Based on the Crimes Act 1958, someone can go to jail for threatening to kill another person. That threat must either be made with the intention that someone else would believe it or is reckless regarding whether the other person would fear the threat would be carried out. In other words, the threat must be “real” or “believable.” These threats do not have to be in person; they can be via text or through social media.
The highest level of penalty for someone threatening to kill another person in Victoria is ten years of imprisonment. They might also face fines and other penalties as well. Given the severity of such threats, if you're involved in such a case, either as a victim or accused, consulting with a criminal lawyer in Melbourne is crucial for understanding your legal rights and options.
Proving The Crime Of Threat To Kill
Threatening to kill another person is an indictable offence. To be considered guilty of this crime, the prosecution must show the following:
- The threat to kill was actually made to another person (or published to others)
- The threat was made without lawful excuse
- The person making the threat intended the other person to fear that the threat would be carried out, or the person making the threat was reckless in whether the receiver would have that fear
Showing that someone intended another person to fear the threat can be difficult to prove. It is very fact-specific. For instance, someone who makes a threat to kill who lives far away may not intend for the other person to believe the threat because it would be very difficult to carry out due to the geographical distance. On the other hand, if someone who lives nearby makes a threat via text, it is much more likely that it would result in real fear that the threat will be carried out.
In addition, unless there is some writing that shows that the threat was made or a recording of the threat, proving that the threat occurred can be difficult. Like all crimes in Victoria, the crime of the threat to kill must meet the Standard Of Proof in Criminal Law - which means, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for any penalties to be imposed.
What Are Legal Excuses For A Threat to Kill?
If someone charged with a threat to kill can prove they had a legal excuse, then they may not be guilty of the alleged crime. Legal excuses for the threat to kill might include:
- Non-self-induced intoxication
Most defences to the charge of threat to kill focus on the intent aspect. If someone had no intention to kill another person or to make the other person fear for their life, then the charge likely will not stand.
Other Threatening Crimes
Victorian law also makes it a criminal offence to engage in other similar threatening crimes, even if the threat is not death. These include the following examples:
- Threat to inflict serious bodily harm
- Conduct that endangers persons
- Extortion with the threat to kill
- Extortion with the threat to destroy property
It can also be a crime to threaten to distribute or actually distribute private information or images.
What To Do If Someone Threatens To Kill You
If someone has threatened to kill you or a loved one, make a report to the police immediately. Give as much information about the situation as you can. The police may be able to make arrangements to detain the threatening individual or take steps to protect you and your family.
Keep in mind that you can use force to protect yourself. The actions must have been necessary, and it is a reasonable response to the situation. However, you should take steps to avoid this situation if you can. Involving the police early can be very helpful.
Securing Safety with an Intervention Order
In situations where direct evidence against someone who has threatened to kill may be insufficient for a criminal conviction, victims in Victoria have the option to seek an Intervention Order for their protection. This legal measure, often a crucial step in safeguarding personal safety, is designed to restrict or prohibit the threatening individual's actions towards the victim. Violating an Intervention Order is considered breaching a court order, carrying its own set of serious legal consequences. This avenue not only serves as a deterrent to further threats or harassment but also establishes a clear legal boundary. If the individual who made the threat violates this order, they can face significant penalties under Victorian law, emphasizing the judicial system's commitment to upholding the safety and rights of individuals against threats and intimidation.
Can You Sue Someone For Threatening To Kill You?
Under the laws of Victoria, the term “assault” means the apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. It is not the physical contact itself, which is called battery. Assault is the anticipation or threat that battery will occur.
Assault and battery are both torts, which means that you can usually sue the other person for the tort of assault, just as you could for a car accident or slip and fall case. However, every civil case must involve damages, which means that you suffered some kind of harm as a result of another person’s actions or inactions. In the case of assault, damages can be difficult to prove.
The threat to kill someone, however, can be extremely emotionally harmful in some situations. Those emotional harms could result in compensable monetary damages in some cases. Talk to a lawyer to learn more about your civil options if you or your family have been threatened.
Threatening to kill another person is a crime, and it comes with significant penalties. If you are being threatened, talk to the police right away. If you have been charged with threatening to kill another person, talk with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
Resources and Further Reading