Law Office of Thomas A. Johnson Federal and State Criminal Defense Attorney
Available 24/7 - call now
916-248-8598
Menu emailContact Us View Blog Categories

Freedom of speech does not mean you can threaten officials

With the intense political climate the country faces these days, it is easy to see why many people have strong emotions and reactions. It is imperative that everyone who is feeling strongly about what's going on understands that there are some things that shouldn't be said.

One thing that is illegal is threatening the President of the United States, Vice President and many other government officials. It is possible to face federal criminal charges if you are accused of doing so.

But, doesn't the First Amendment protect freedom of speech?

The First Amendment of the Constitution does protect the freedom of speech, but it doesn't provide protection against threatening government officials. The laws in this country take this type of behavior seriously. You can find information about threats against federal officials, including the President, in Chapter 41 of the U.S. Code.

There are instances in which comments might not cause any legal action. For example, Groucho Marx made a statement in 1971 that claimed assassination of Nixon was the only hope this country had. He didn't face charges for that statement.

What behaviors constitute this type of crime?

In order to be convicted of threatening the President or another official, you have to willingly and knowingly make the statements about wanting to harm or assassinate them. Religious beliefs and the presence of political statements don't provide defenses against this type of charge.

The treat has to be credible. There has to be a good chance that the person will try to see it to fruition. Simply making a joke or statement that alludes to this fact isn't going to constitute a criminal action. If there isn't a belief that you would act on your statement, there isn't a criminal element present.

What penalties come with a conviction?

Criminal charges related to threatening a government official must be taken seriously. You need to review the options that you have for a defense. Typically, this will be either going through a trial before a jury of your peers or working out a plea deal.

The sentence for a conviction of threatening a federal government official is up to five years in prison, as well as the possibility of three years of supervised release when the incarceration period is complete. A fine of up to $250,000 is also possible. The same sentence is possible if the threats were made to internationally protected people, foreign officials or official guests visiting the United States.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Available 24/7 - Call Now

Contact Thomas A. Johnson

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Law Office of Thomas A. Johnson | 400 Capitol Mall, Suite 2560 | Sacramento, CA 95814 | Toll Free: 866-974-4316 | Phone: 916-248-8598 | Fax: 916-442-4262 | Sacramento Law Office Map