Basics of Criminal Threat and Aggravated Criminal Threat Laws in Kansas

Criminal threat and aggravated criminal threat felony charges in Kansas that carry the possibility of prison time and costly fines. A conviction could negatively affect your life for many years. However, an aggressive criminal defense attorney may be able to lower the charges against you or get them dropped.

Additionally, a recent court ruling determined that part of the state’s criminal threat statute was unconstitutional. So, if you’ve already been found guilty of a criminal threat charge, a criminal defense attorney might be able to assist you in getting the conviction overturned.

What’s a criminal threat and an aggravated criminal threat?

In general, a criminal threat is any threat communicated intentionally to cause fear in another person. A criminal threat is specifically defined in Kansas statute as a threat to:

  • Commit violence with the intent of putting another person in fear or causing an evacuation, lockdown, or disruption of activities in a building
  • Contaminate food, agricultural commodities, beverages, drugs, animal feed, a plant, or public water supply
  • Expose an animal to a contagious or infectious disease

Under Kansas law, an aggravated criminal threat is a threat that causes an evacuation, lockdown, or disruption of normal activities in a public, commercial, or industrial building, a transportation facility, or a place of assembly.

What does the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling mean for criminal threat?

The Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled that part of the state’s criminal threat statute violated the First Amendment. Previously, defendants could be charged with and convicted of a criminal threat charge if they made a threat in “reckless disregard” of causing fear in another person. In the case State vs. Boettger, the court ruled this part of the statute was constitutionally overbroad because it could include statements where the person didn’t intend to cause fear.

The ruling means that you may be able to get a criminal threat conviction overturned if you were found guilty based on “reckless disregard” for causing fear. Some factors that could affect your case include the way prosecutors charged the crime, the facts and circumstances of the case, and the language in the jury’s verdict or the plea agreement.

What are the penalties for a criminal threat and aggravated criminal threat?

In Kansas, the charges of criminal threat and aggravated criminal threat are felonies that carry the potential of significant prison time and fines. However, the state’s sentencing guidelines stipulate that a defendant could be sentenced to probation for either criminal offense.

This underscores the importance of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney who can successfully argue your case in court.

Criminal threat is a level 9 felony with a possible sentence of five months to 17 months in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. For defendants with a somewhat limited criminal record, the state’s sentencing guidelines specify that probation rather than prison time is the appropriate sentence.

Aggravated criminal threat is a level 5 felony with a maximum possible sentence of 136 months in prison and a fine up to $100,000. Someone convicted of aggravated criminal threat could avoid prison if they’ve committed two or fewer misdemeanors.

Criminal threat vs. simple assault: What’s the difference?

Generally, criminal threat is communicating a threat of violence to another person to cause fear, while a simple assault is putting someone in fear of immediate physical danger through a threat or action.

These criminal offenses are similar, but they have significantly different penalties. Criminal threat is a felony charge with a possible sentence of 17 months in prison. Simple assault is the lowest level of misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one month in county jail.

A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to lower your criminal threat charge to simple assault. This could be the difference between having a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record and a much longer prison sentence.

What are common defenses to beat criminal threat charges?

A defendant charged with criminal threat and their attorney can fight criminal threat charges to either beat the case, avoid prison, or lessen the penalty. Some common defenses against a criminal threat charge include:

  • No intent. Your attorney may argue that their client didn’t communicate a true threat but rather they were joking or venting their frustration.
  • Protected speech. In certain instances, an attorney may argue that their client’s words were protected as free speech, perhaps as a form of exaggeration or art.
  • Corroboration. If the case hinges on one person’s word against another, juries may be reluctant to convict a defendant without corroboration that a criminal threat occurred.
  • Self-defense. If you made a threatening statement in defense of yourself or others, you and your attorney may be able to successfully argue self-defense.

If you’ve been charged with criminal threat or aggravated criminal threat in Wichita, Kansas, or the surrounding area, it’s important that you contact the Koop Law Firm. Jeremy D. Koop, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, has years of experience skillfully defending his clients’ constitutional rights.

The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice; it is for general informational purposes only.

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