A death threat is a statement threatening someone else’s life. The person making the threat may have no intention of following through on it but still be charged with a variety of crimes. While charges are most serious when the threat is real, people can face serious consequences for even lightly making these statements, and the degree to which a charge is prosecuted may depend on who is threatened and how.
Saying “I’ll kill you,” is a common exaggerative statement that many people employ, often in the heat of the moment. Even in a country where free speech is a basic right, this statement can be taken seriously, no matter if the person means it or not. Sometimes the law is highly interpretive on this matter. Making a statement that someone deserves to die could possibly not constitute a death threat, but stating that an individual will take action to kill someone does.
To avoid possible charges, it’s really best for people not to make statements that could be construed as threats. Alluding to the death of someone else or of a group of people is simply not recommended from a legal standpoint, no matter how figurative a statement is. There is little point in risking criminal charges when many alternative ways exist to express dislike of individuals or groups.
While some people make unreal or accidental death threats, others make serious ones. They can state these verbally, write them in letters, release them in videos, or communicate them in other forms. A threat can be toward one individual, a small group, or a large group, and encompass threats of destruction of property that would also kill people, like bomb threats. Making such a threat alone may be illegal and intent to carry through with a threat can also carry more serious charges. Stating plans to commit acts of terrorism, mass murder, or to harm high-ranking officials could be viewed most seriously.
It is important for people to understand that things like bomb threats, which are occasionally used lightly by students in school settings, are considered potential acts of terrorism. This has been legally tested in some courts with even very young children who have gotten angry and made a threat to blow up a school or made a bomb threat as a prank to end a school day early. Kids should be taught that they must never make such a threat because many schools won’t ignore a statement like this or treat it lightly.
Essentially, the death threat may result in criminal charges and should be considered a potentially serious offense. Specific charges may depend on the region, who is threatened, and the degree to which a court might view the threat as serious. It makes sense for individuals to avoid any statements of this nature and especially to avoid any comments that appear to suggest that a person wants to act in terrorist or treasonous ways.