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In Massachusetts it is unlawful to threaten to commit a crime against another’s person or property. According to M.G.L. c. 275, Section 2,

If complaint is made to any such court or justice that a person has threatened to commit a crime against the person or property of another, such court or justice shall examine the complainant and any witnesses who may be produced, on oath, reduce the complaint to writing and cause it to be subscribed by the complainant.

Any violation of the statute is punishable by up to six months in jail or a find not to exceed $100. Alternatively, the court may impose a “peace bond” for up to six months. As provided by M.G.L. c. 275, Section 4:

Instead of imposing sentence, the court or justice may order the person complained of to enter into a recognizance, with sufficient sureties, in such sum as the court or justice orders, to keep the peace toward all the people of the commonwealth, and especially toward the person requiring such security, for such term, not exceeding six months, as the court or justice may order. 

It’s important to note, the mere words are often insufficient to justify a conviction for criminal threats. There also must be some evidence to suggest that the defendant had the ability to act on the threats he made.

In law, “threatened” has universally been interpreted to require more than the mere expression of intention. The elements of threatening a crime include an expression of intention to inflict a crime on another and an ability to do so in circumstances that would justify apprehension on the part of the recipient of the threat. (Emphasis added.)

Commonwealth v. Elliffe, 47 Mass. App. Ct. 580, 582 (1999).

Moreover, while some words or expressions

themselves do not constitute “an expression of intention to do bodily harm or to inflict any other evil, injury or damage,” they must be interpreted in the context of the actions and demeanor which accompanied them; when viewed together they may constitute the requisite expression, and may indicate additionally, in the circumstances, ability and apprehension.


In the Elliffe case, for example, the defendant’s demand that his ex-wife “drop the charges” were deemed threatening when considered in context:

The evidence that the defendant repeatedly shouted, “Drop the charges!” while he was “very very angry,” “standing two feet from [the victim],” and physically assaulting and battering her, could permit a jury to draw the reasonable inference that if she did not “drop the charges” additional violence, either presently or in the future, would follow.

Id. at 583.

For more on the elements of the “threat to commit a crime” see Jury Instruction 6.700.