A person charged with threats of violence will have to go through the judicial process to determine if they are guilty of the alleged crime or not. In court, they will be judged by a jury, i.e. a carefully selected group of unbiased people without interest or stake in the case.
To aid the jury in making their decision of whether or not the defendant is guilty, they are given a packet of jury instructions.
What are Jury Instructions?
Jury instructions are a written set of information and instructions that help guide jury deliberations. They are read by the judge and given to the jury to use and refer to in the deliberation room.
In the packet of jury instructions, the crime is explained as it is written in the law. The elements of the crime or factors that need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt are also indicated for the jury’s reference. If any of the elements, in the jury’s opinion, are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they cannot find the accused guilty.
The First Element of Threats of Violence, Subdivision One
Threats of violence under Minnesota law have three subdivisions: intent to terrorize, communications to terrorize, and display of a replica firearm. These subdivisions of threats of violence cases each have elements that need to be met to say that the accused is indeed guilty of the same.
The first subdivision, which deals with intent to terrorize or terroristic threats, has three elements. In this article, we put focus on the first: that the defendant threatened directly or indirectly to commit a crime of violence.
Examples That Meet the First Element of Threats of Violence
There are various situations that can meet the first element of threats of violence as long as there was a threat made by the defendant to commit a crime of violence. Examples of direct threats include telling a person that they will shoot them while holding a gun in their hand and pointing it directly to the supposed victim. This can be classified as assault with a firearm, which is a crime of violence.
An indirect threat, on the other hand, is one that is made not to the supposed victim but communicated to another person. For example, if a person tells someone else that they will kill another by bringing a gun and shooting them, they have committed an indirect threat of violence. Targeting to kill someone through a social media post can also be an indirect threat to commit violence, such as by posting a status about killing a particular person.
In the first element, there doesn’t need to be proof that the defendant had the actual intention of carrying out the threat. As long as they made the threatening statement, their actions fulfilled the first element.
Another thing to note is that a threat of violence does not have to be specific to a certain weapon, such as a firearm. A direct or indirect threat about killing someone with bare hands can meet the first element, as long as the act or assault could lead to great bodily harm or death. Therefore, actions such as slapping or gently hitting aren’t enough to prove a crime of violence.
This first element, making a direct or indirect threat to commit a crime of violence, along with the two other elements of threats of violence, need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt for the jury to decide that the defendant is indeed guilty.