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Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyers Representing Individuals Charges With Serious Felony Crimes

While the old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” makes sense, that’s not how Virginia lawmakers feel. In fact, making threats of death or bodily injury to another person can land you with a felony conviction – assuming the prosecution can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. At the Fairfax criminal defense law firm of Robinson Law, PLLC, our dedicated team of attorneys has more than 50 years of combined experience defending the rights of good people who find themselves facing misdemeanor and felony charges.

Is Making Threats Illegal Under Virginia Law?

Yes and no. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, among other things, the right to the freedom of speech. However, true threats fall outside the protection of the First Amendment. Thus, most states, including Virginia, criminalize at least some form of threatening language.

Under Virginia Code §18.2-60, someone commits the crime of making threats of death or bodily injury if they threaten, in writing, to kill or hurt another person and the threat places the other person in reasonable fear of death or injury. Someone can also violate the Virginia threats law by placing threatening someone’s family member, even if the defendant did not communicate the threat to the alleged victim’s family member.

Does A Threat Need To Be In Writing?

Yes, under §18.2-60, the law against making threats of death or bodily injury only applies to threats that are in writing. However, the statute makes clear that “electronically transmitted” threats, such as email and text messages, are considered to be in writing. The only exception to this is under subsection (B), which provides that oral threats made on school grounds against employees of the school or oral threats made against certain health care workers are a violation of §18.2-60.

Notably, while most verbal threats cannot lead to charges under §18.2-60, verbal threats and other threats made on a computer can result in other charges, including the following:

  • Harassment by Computer under Va. Code §18.2-152.7:1;
  • Use of Profane, Threatening, or Indecent Language under Va. Code §18.2-427;
  • Simple Assault under Va. Code §18.2-57;
  • Threats to Bomb or Damage Buildings or Means of Transportation under Va. Code §18.2-83;
  • Threatening, Attempting or Assisting In an Abduction under Va. Code §18.2-49

What Is The Punishment For Making Death Threats In Virginia?

The crime of making threats of death or bodily injury is a Class 5 felony, carrying a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of $2,500. However, if the threat was made on school grounds, at a school-sponsored event or on a school bus, the offense is considered a Class 6 felony, punishable by a term of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Oral threats against school employees and health care providers are considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a term of one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Are You Charged With Making Death Threats?

If you were recently arrested and charged for making threats in violation of §18.2-60 or any other Virginia criminal threats law, reach out to the dedicated Fairfax criminal defense attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC. At Lawyer Up Virginia, we have extensive experience aggressively defending clients charged with serious crimes, including making death threats, assaults and violations of protective orders. We recognize that it can be hard to find someone who will listen to your side of the story after you’ve been arrested and want to help make sure your voice is heard. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation today, call 703-542-3616. You can also connect with us through our online contact form. We proudly represent clients in Fairfax, Loudoun, Stafford counties and Suffolk, as well as throughout northern Virginia.