Connecticut Threat to Harm Lawyer
In today’s hypersensitive climate of security screenings, background checks and counter-terrorism efforts of law enforcement, Connecticut lawmakers and police take verbal and electronic threats seriously. In fact, the crime of Threatening under C.G.S. 53a-62 appears to be charged more and more frequently. No longer can a disgruntled spouse, employee, student or citizen freely use their words to intimidate their spouse, boss, professor or government representative. There are now criminal Threatening laws in the books which set boundaries for what constitutes free, protected speech and what Connecticut criminal law considers threatening, illegal speech.
In fact, as most top Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyers would concede, a person can be charged with the crime of Threatening for just uttering words or typing text messages, without any additional physical conduct accompanying this speech. Therefore, if you are charged with 53a-62 Threatening in Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Greenwich, Westport, Fairfield, New Canaan or any other jurisdiction in the state, then you should contact a top Connecticut threat to harm lawyer as soon as possible to figure out the most effective way to fight your charges.
What Constitutes “Threatening” Under Connecticut Criminal Law?
The most common Threatening charge in Connecticut is Threatening in the Second Degree under C.G.S. 53a-62, a misdemeanor. To be guilty of this crime, you must either (1) make a threat of physical harm to another person with the intent to place that person in fear of imminent serious physical injury (i.e. “Come any closer and I’m going to break your nose with this baseball bat”), (2) threaten to commit a violent crime with intent to terrorize another person (i.e. “I’m going to kill you if you step on my property!”), or (3) threaten to commit a violent crime in reckless disregard of the risk causing such terror (i.e. telling a coworker that “I’m going to start a fire in our office if the boss makes us come into work this weekend.”).
First Degree Threatening under C.G.S. 53a-61aa is a bit more serious. This is a felony charges that applies when a person threatens to commit any crime using a hazardous substance with the intent to cause an evacuation (i.e. calling in a chemical bomb threat to a courthouse or school).
Penalties for First & Second Degree Threatening Charges
The penalties for First and Second Degree Threatening charges in Connecticut depend on the degree of the Threatening charge. As Second Degree Threatening under 53a-62 is a Class A Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is one year in jail, probation, and a $2000 fine.
First Degree Threatening under 53a-61aa carries a maximum 5-year prison sentence, probation, and a $5000 fine. While these maximum penalties are rarely imposed by Connecticut courts, it gives you an idea of how serious courts and lawmakers consider these charges.
Restraining Orders, Protective Orders and No Contact Orders
If you are arrested for 53a-62 Threatening in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk, New Canaan, or anywhere else in Connecticut, then you will be ordered to stand before a Superior Court judge on your first day of court. At this first appearance, called the “arraignment,” you may be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to your Threatening charge. It is strongly advised that you have a top Connecticut criminal attorney by your side at the arraignment for purposes of entering your initial plea to your charges.
Even more importantly, the Judge will usually enter some sort of restraining order to protect the person, persons or business entity accusing you of Threatening. These protected persons or entities are identified in Court as “victims” even though they are actually only alleged victims. Notwithstanding this legal distinction, judges in Threatening cases will usually issue a “no contact” order against you which orders you not to have any form of contact whatsoever with the person or business you are accused of threatening. This order can come in the form of a criminal protective order or as an additional condition of your release (i.e. other conditions of your release would be “come to court on time” or perhaps engage in anger management counseling).
Remember, when you were first arrested, you may have posted a bond in your case and if you violate any condition of your release, then your bond may be raised to a higher amount. You could also be charged with the separate misdemeanor criminal charge of Violation of the Conditions of Release under C.G.S. 53a-222. And if a criminal protective / restraining order was issued, then a violation could lead to the felony charge of C.G.S. 53a-223 Criminal Violation of a Protective Order.
Threatening Charges in Connecticut Domestic Violence Cases
Almost any top Stamford Connecticut domestic violence lawyer has dealt with a 53a-62 Threatening charge in a domestic violence case. With domestic violence can also come threats of domestic violence, and Stamford police will quickly intervene and arrest you if they believe your threatening language warrants it. These days, dialogue by and between feuding family members and spouses—whether it be transmitted by text, tweet, or email—can get nasty, aggressive, and violent quickly.
To de-escalate the likelihood of violence in domestic violence situations, police in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan will often err on the side of making the arrest for Threatening in the Second Degree and then let the court system and prosecutors sort out all the facts later. From law enforcement’s view, a volatile domestic violence situation can be calmed by making an arrest, getting court-mandated restraining orders put in place, and then having the proper treatment and counseling put in place to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
While this sounds good in theory, some of the best Stamford domestic violence lawyers would disagree and argue that much of the alleged “threatening” speech is constitutionally protected, does not rise to the level of criminal speech, and further, imposes unnecessary and gratuitous governmental interference in family matters that could and should be resolved without the State of Connecticut getting involved.
First Amendment Defenses to Threatening Charges in Connecticut
Many of our firm’s Second Degree Threatening clients find it very hard to believe that words alone can be criminal, especially when our clients believe they should be protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Thanks to top Connecticut First Amendment lawyers, there is a constitutional caveat embedded in some of the defenses to a 53a-62 Threatening in the Second Degree charge.
While the words on their face may seem dangerous or threatening, the First Amendment requires that in order to be criminal, these words must usually be spoken with the intent to cause fear in the recipient. Specifically, this key requirement for most scenarios that lead to a Connecticut Threatening charge is that you must actually intend that your threatening words will cause this fear in another person. Thus, language and words spoken in jest, hyperbole, or as puffery, would not be considered criminal. Yet appreciate that just because you may not be guilty of Threatening does not mean you will not get arrested.
Fighting Your Second Degree Threatening Charges
Through their years of practice and successfully defending their clients against Connecticut Threatening charges, the criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have developed effective defense strategies to fight 53a-61aa and 53a-62 First and Second Degree Threatening charges. Our two-attorney approach ensures that your police reports are analyzed and scrutinized by two of our criminal attorneys for factual errors and constitutional defects.
We will then work with you to craft the most effective and persuasive defense strategy in your Threatening case. We explore all avenues to possible dismissal with you, including motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, court diversionary programs, first-time offender programs, community service, counseling, and of course, a trial if it is necessary. We will also investigate your accusers if they have given false statements to the police. We will look to uncover and expose any flaws in the alleged victim’s accusations and show them to the court as quickly as possible. Our ultimate goal is to get your Threatening charge dismissed and we will work tirelessly to try and achieve this objective.
Victim Representation in Connecticut Threatening Charges
While we regularly represent people charged with 53a-62 Threatening charges, we are often hired by our clients to represent them in their role as victims in a Connecticut Threatening case. These are usually individuals, family members, and companies who have been threatened by an individual to a point where they urgently need police and court intervention and protection. We often take these cases on at the very beginning—that is, before the police are even called, and when the threat is first made to our victim-clients (although we will enter cases that are already in progress), The Victim Representation attorneys at Mark Sherman Law can assist you with filing the most effective police reports, and gathering and analyzing written, verbal and electronic evidence of the threats. Our goal is to synthesize the information to make the task of arresting the threatening party as easy as possible for police in Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and elsewhere. We then go to Court with you and aggressively advocate for the most restrictive and toughest restraining order conditions against the accused so that you, your family members, or your business can feel safe and protected. After that, we work hand in hand with prosecutors, appear in court on your behalf, and most of all, keep you informed of the case’s progress.
Mark Sherman Law stands out among other Stamford criminal attorneys in that we offer the services of our In-house Victim Advocate Christine Bartlett, who served as a victim advocate in the Stamford and Norwalk courts for nearly seven years. As a court-appointed, certified and trained victim advocate in hundreds of domestic violence cases during that time, Christine’s familiarity with the court process in Threatening cases allows the Mark Sherman Law victim practice to be most effective in its advocacy. Put even more simply, her experience helps us get results. In fact, in many of our Threatening cases (especially those involving domestic violence), Christine regularly coordinates efforts between our victim-clients and the Mark Sherman Law attorneys to apply for Civil Restraining Orders, which go hand-in-hand with the Criminal Protective Orders that are issued in the criminal case.
Contact an Experienced Threat to Harm Lawyer in Connecticut
So if you have been arrested for First or Second Degree Threatening in Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Darien, or Wilton, or are a Victim of Threatening, do not wait any longer to contact one of the Mark Sherman Law criminal attorneys. Our Connecticut threat to harm lawyers are standing by to assist you through the criminal court process. As we have done so often during our years of practice, we are prepared to take the police and prosecutors in your First or Second Degree Threatening case to task. As discussed above, Threatening Cases involve many moving pieces such as restraining orders, victim investigation, First Amendment defenses and preservation of electronic evidence.