Threat - Wikipedia

Threats can be subtle or overt. Actor Justus D. Barnes, in The Great Train Robbery

A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person.[1][2] Intimidation is a tactic used between conflicting parties to make the other timid or psychologically insecure for coercion or control. The act of intimidation for coercion is considered as a threat.

Threatening or threatening behavior (or criminal threatening behavior) is the crime of intentionally or knowingly putting another person in fear of bodily injury. "Threat of harm generally involves a perception of injury...physical or mental damage...act or instance of injury, or a material and detriment or loss to a person."[3]

Some of the more common types of threats forbidden by law are those made with an intent to obtain a monetary advantage or to compel a person to act against their will. In most US states, it is an offense to threaten to (1) use a deadly weapon on another person; (2) injure another's person or property; or (3) injure another's reputation.[4]



In Brazil, the crime of threatening someone, defined as a threat to cause unjust and grave harm, is punishable by a fine or three months to one year in prison, as described in the Brazilian Penal Code, article 147. Brazilian [jurisprudence] does not treat as a crime a threat that was proffered in a heated discussion.


Uttering threats is a criminal offence in Canada. Subsection 264.1(1) of the Criminal Code forbids uttering, conveying or causing a person to receive a threat. Importantly, those threats include (a) the threat to cause death or bodily harm to any person; (b) the threats to burn, destroy or damage property; and (c) the threat to kill, poison or injure an animal belonging to a person.[5][6] Additionally, paragraph 265(1)(b) of the Criminal Code provides that the mere threat of an assault is an assault in itself.[5]

Canadian law does not provide for a specific crime of domestic violence or coercive control, but some existing offences encompass acts of domestic violence, including threats.[7][8]  

Uttering threats in a domestic context, including post-separation, can reveal the presence of coercive control within a relationship. Researchers Isabelle Côté and Simon Lapierre explain that threats can be a tool within a pattern of coercive control, and therefore part of “a series of repetitive strategies, some more violent and others not, whose cumulative effects must be analysed in their broader context of domination”.[9] From this perspective, an abusive (ex-)partner maintains control and dominance, and in doing so disempowers his victim, by using threats and other coercive control tactics, which may include gaslighting, harassment, degradation, and physical and sexual violence.[10][11] Threats can be directed against the victim herself, but also against her children, her animals or her property.[12]

Threats, and coercive control more generally, are a predictor of aggravated violence, including femicide and filicide.[13] Lapierre and Côté report in particular the example of Daphnée Huard-Boudreault who, in 2017, was murdered by her ex-partner after he posted death threats against her on social networks.[14]

Threats in a domestic violence context is exemplified by the case R v CH. The accused is found guilty of threats after he threatened to shoot his partner and her parents, and to kidnap their children. The court recounted:

[12]           The uttering threats charge was part of the chain of events that occurred on 6 November 2017, following an unsuccessful hunting outing, which led to an argument.  The “Door Handle” incident which occurred that day has already been mentioned.  After that, J.E. had got into her car (it was actually her father’s car).  You told her that if she did not get out of the car, you were going to smash every window and that if she left, you and your father would follow her to her parents’ house, where you would shoot her and her parents and take your child.[15]

Multiple instances of abuse occurred in their relationship, including sexual assaults, assaults and mischief.


The German Strafgesetzbuch § 241 punishes the crime of threat with a prison term for up to three years or a fine.

United States[edit]

In the United States, federal law criminalizes certain true threats transmitted via the U.S. mail[16] or in interstate commerce. It also criminalizes threatening the government officials of the United States. Some U.S. states criminalize cyberbullying. Threats of bodily harm are considered assault.

State of Texas[edit]

In the state of Texas, it is not necessary that the person threatened actually perceive a threat for a threat to exist for legal purposes.[17][18]

True threat[edit]

A true threat is a threatening communication that can be prosecuted under the law. It is distinct from a threat that is made in jest. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that true threats are not protected under the U.S. Constitution based on three justifications: preventing fear, preventing the disruption that follows from that fear, and diminishing the likelihood that the threatened violence will occur.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "threat". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ "threat". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. ^ "Threat of Harm Law and Legal Definition". USLegal.
  4. ^ Phelps and Lehman, Shirelle and Jeffrey (2005). West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. p. 27.
  5. ^ a b "Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)". Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  6. ^ "R. c. J.S., 2019 QCCQ 15151 (CanLII)". CanLII. December 11, 2019. Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  7. ^ Gill, Carmen; Aspinall, Mary (April 20, 2020). "Comprendre le contrôle coercitif dans le contexte de la violence entre partenaires intimes au Canada: Comment traiter la question par l'entremise du système de justice pénale?" (PDF). Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  8. ^ Lessard, Michaël; Bonenfant, Romane (December 1, 2020). "Violence conjugale : La victime peut craindre pour sa sécurité physique, psychologique ou émotionnelle en matière de harcèlement criminel". Blogue du CRL.
  9. ^ Côté, Isabelle; Lapierre, Simon. "Pour une intégration du contrôle coercitif dans les pratiques d'intervention en matière de violence conjugale au Québec" (PDF). Intervention (153): 117.
  10. ^ Stark, Evan (2012). "Re-presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty" (PDF). Les Presses de l’Université du Québec.
  11. ^ Côté, Isabelle; Lapierre, Simon (2021). "Pour une intégration du contrôle coercitif dans les pratiques d'intervention en matière de violence conjugale au Québec" (PDF). Intervention (153).
  12. ^ West Island Women's Shelter. "Contrôle coercitif: Outils complémentaires au guide d'accompagnement" (PDF). Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  13. ^ Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (2019). "#CallItFemicide: Understanding Gender-Related Killings of Women and Girls in Canada 2019" (PDF). Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  14. ^ Côté, Isabelle; Lapierre, Simon (2021). "Pour une intégration du contrôle coercitif dans les pratiques d'intervention en matière de violence conjugale au Québec" (PDF). Intervention (153): 121.
  15. ^ "R. v. C.H., 2021 ONSC 8146 (CanLII)". CanLII. November 5, 2021.
  16. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 876
  17. ^ Olivias v. State of Texas, 203 S.W. 3d 341 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006) Citing McGowan v. State of Texas, 664 S.W. 2d 355 at 357 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984).
  18. ^ 2 Wayne R. LaFave, Substantive Criminal Law §16.3(b) at 568 (2d ed. 2003).
  19. ^ Toward an Improved True Threat Doctrine for Student Speakers; Stanner, Andrew P., vol. 81, N.Y.U. L. Rev., 2006, p. 385