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  #1  
Old 04-19-2006, 09:03 AM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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"If you touch me, I'll kill you." Threat or not?

If somebody says "If you touch me, I'll kill you," is this a threat that would be against the law? It is contingent upon an action, rather than a direct threat. But, there is a threat in it. So, have there been any court rulings on this kind of statement?
Thanks,
hh
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  #2  
Old 04-19-2006, 09:07 AM
BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handsomeharry
If somebody says "If you touch me, I'll kill you," is this a threat that would be against the law? It is contingent upon an action, rather than a direct threat. But, there is a threat in it. So, have there been any court rulings on this kind of statement?
Thanks,
hh
Great question. In a similar vein I always wondered if it is a "threat" to tell someone you hated that if you were to come across them at the scene of an accident that you would leave them there to die rather than help.
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  #3  
Old 04-19-2006, 09:11 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by BwanaBob
Great question. In a similar vein I always wondered if it is a "threat" to tell someone you hated that if you were to come across them at the scene of an accident that you would leave them there to die rather than help.
That might depend on whether the jurisdiction involved imposed a legal obligation on bystanders to assist accident victims.
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  #4  
Old 04-19-2006, 09:43 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Not my bailiwick, and tort classes were multiple decades ago, but my answer is that it depends on the specific fact situation, and the reasonableness of the threat perceived.
I believe the tort involved would be assault (as opposed to battery, which generally requires a threat + and unpermitted touching).
So - to identify some extremes - if an unarmed little kid across the street says he's gonna kill you, a decision-maker might find you had less reason to fear than if a huge escaped violent felon is in your face screaming it while brandishing a knife.

I also believe that under common law bystanders generally are presumed to have no duty to assist injured parties.

But again, these are not my area of expertise (to the extent that I have ANY), and I probably know little more about such things than folks who watch legal dramas on TV.
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  #5  
Old 04-19-2006, 09:48 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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In the most lay sense, doesn't a threat have to threatening?

(Kind of like the difference in semantics in the Army between saying, "You're an bunghold, sergeant!" and "I think you're a bunghole, sergeant!")
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  #6  
Old 04-19-2006, 10:05 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar
In the most lay sense, doesn't a threat have to threatening?
Suggests another wrinkle, which involves the individual's perception.
I could jokingly threaten to kill you and you might dismiss it a joke.
But if I said it to a very nervous person who proceeded to have a panic attack, he might might have enough of a prima facie case to bring a cause of action.
It all comes down to the facts of a particular case.
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  #7  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:10 AM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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In Florida, for it to be criminal, there has to be a threat of "immediate violence" and you have to have the ability to carry out that threat, immediately.

So if I said "I am going to fucking kill you. I swear to god you're dead. You better watch your back cause I'm going to blow you away with a shotgun", and I dont have a shotgun in my hand, then there is no crime.

If I said, "I'm going to kill you, tomorrow." There is no criminal threat.

If I said "I'm going to stab you with a knife right now!", but I didn't have a knife, then there is no criminal threat.

If I pointed a weapon (knife, club, pistol) at you and said "I'm going to kill you!!" Then that's a threat.

But if I pointed the same weapon at you and said "I'm going to kill you, in 20 minutes!!", then there's no crime.
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  #8  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:16 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
But if I pointed the same weapon at you and said "I'm going to kill you, in 20 minutes!!", then there's no crime.
Ummm, I'm no lawyer here, but wouldn't simply pointing a gun at somebody in most situations qualify as an immediate threat, verbal time limits notwithstanding?
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  #9  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:19 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell
Ummm, I'm no lawyer here, but wouldn't simply pointing a gun at somebody in most situations qualify as an immediate threat, verbal time limits notwithstanding?
Yeah - I wouldn't believe all threats need to be verbally communicated.

Also, as with many legal questions, folks may wish to distinguish between civil and criminal law.
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  #10  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:23 AM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
In Florida, for it to be criminal, there has to be a threat of "immediate violence" and you have to have the ability to carry out that threat, immediately.

So if I said "I am going to fucking kill you. I swear to god you're dead. You better watch your back cause I'm going to blow you away with a shotgun", and I dont have a shotgun in my hand, then there is no crime.
OK, next time Bush is in town go ahead and say that to him and let us know about how the police didn't touch you because you didn't commit a crime.
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  #11  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:32 AM
Bippy the Beardless Bippy the Beardless is offline
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We are getting away from the OP which asked about a conditional threat. Something like "If you touch me I'll rip your head off", or "Toucha my car I smasha your face".

Also would there be a difference if the condition wasn't an illegal act, wince if someone touches you on purpose that is arguably assault, but I don't think touching someones car (as long as no damage occurs) is illegal.

Would "I'll count to 10, and if you are still here I'll break your neck" count as an illegal threat, what about "If you insult her again, I'll break both your legs."
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  #12  
Old 04-19-2006, 11:53 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas
OK, next time Bush is in town go ahead and say that to him and let us know about how the police didn't touch you because you didn't commit a crime.
Threats against the President are a violation of a particular Federal law. It is entirely possible to violate that law, but not the Florida statute.
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  #13  
Old 04-19-2006, 12:07 PM
An Arky An Arky is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar
In the most lay sense, doesn't a threat have to threatening?

(Kind of like the difference in semantics in the Army between saying, "You're an bunghold, sergeant!" and "I think you're a bunghole, sergeant!")
So, what's a pobe?





::d&r::
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  #14  
Old 04-19-2006, 12:33 PM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell
Ummm, I'm no lawyer here, but wouldn't simply pointing a gun at somebody in most situations qualify as an immediate threat, verbal time limits notwithstanding?
You're right. Simply pointing a gun at someone qualifies as an immediate threat. But in the scenario I gave, the person did MORE than simply point a gun at someone. He pointed it and gave a specific time (not the present) that he'd harm the victim. Had he just pointed the gun and said nothing, the scneario changes.

Either way, the scenarios are highly unlikely in their specifics. Who the hell would say "I'm going to kill you.... tomorrow afternoon!" while holding a machete? They're just teaching scenarios that people come up with to explain the law and discuss elements of a crime. My law instructor at the Police Academy had thousands of them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
We are getting away from the OP which asked about a conditional threat. Something like "If you touch me I'll rip your head off", or "Toucha my car I smasha your face".
Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear in that regard. The whole "IF, THEN" statement is not an immediate threat. It's more like a warning or an ultimatum. That isn't a criminal assault.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas Quote
OK, next time Bush is in town go ahead and say that to him and let us know about how the police didn't touch you because you didn't commit a crime.
Are you being intentionally obtuse?
First of all, though I said "there would be no crime", I guess I would have been more clear had I said "there is no crime of assault. There is no threat". I thought it was pretty obvious what I meant. There could be other crimes, like reckless display of a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm... that kind of thing. But the OP is talking about threats.
Now as far as the President is concerned. That's a whole different animal. Just writing a letter to him saying that you're going to kill him in a year will probably send you to jail for a while. But there are specific federal laws against plots or attempts to kill or harm the president. So it doesn't have to fit Florida's definition of "assault" or "threat". Hell, the statement "I'm going to kill you tomorrow, Mr. President" is probably enough to send you to prison. But I bet the crime is something other than "assault". I bet it's like "plotting assassination", "conspiracy to harm the president" or some cramp like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Would "I'll count to 10, and if you are still here I'll break your neck" count as an illegal threat, what about "If you insult her again, I'll break both your legs."
No. and No.
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  #15  
Old 04-19-2006, 01:21 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
You're right. Simply pointing a gun at someone qualifies as an immediate threat. But in the scenario I gave, the person did MORE than simply point a gun at someone. He pointed it and gave a specific time (not the present) that he'd harm the victim. Had he just pointed the gun and said nothing, the scneario changes.
Well, I'd like for our lawyers to chime in, but the criminal defense lawyers at this office all agree that the act of pointing a gun constitutes as reasonable fear of imminent danger, whether or not the person says "in 20 minutes" or not. Without the pulling of the gun, though, it's not assault.
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  #16  
Old 04-19-2006, 01:29 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell
Well, I'd like for our lawyers to chime in
That should be "other lawyers."

The point is, regardless of what is said afterwards, I believe that the act of pointing a gun at a person would cause a reasonable person to feel threatened.
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  #17  
Old 04-19-2006, 01:44 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
Are you being intentionally obtuse?
Of course not. I'm not even being obtuse by accident.
Quote:
First of all, though I said "there would be no crime", I guess I would have been more clear had I said "there is no crime of assault. There is no threat". I thought it was pretty obvious what I meant. There could be other crimes, like reckless display of a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm... that kind of thing. But the OP is talking about threats.
I'm just reading the words. In the situation you described, there was no firearm, so I don't see how there could be other crimes.

I don't dispute your description of Florida law. I can understand why it would be a federal crime to threaten the president, although I'm a little baffled that it's not a crime to threaten anyone else.

If the type of threat1 you described is not a crime in Florida, is there no recourse by the victim of repeated threats of this kind? (Hope this isn't getting too far afield of the OP.)
___________________________
1. By "threat" I mean verbal expression of a desire or intent to do harm, rather than the apparent imminent action of harm. I have no idea what the legal meaning of "threat" is.
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  #18  
Old 04-19-2006, 01:55 PM
lisacurl lisacurl is offline
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Lighten up, Francis.
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Old 04-19-2006, 01:57 PM
lisacurl lisacurl is offline
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Er, the above post was a pop culture reference with regard to the OP. Since I don't often post in General Questions, I'm not sure if that was cool or not. If not, sorry. If okay, then kudos to whomever gets it first.
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  #20  
Old 04-19-2006, 02:38 PM
nivlac nivlac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lisacurl
Er, the above post was a pop culture reference with regard to the OP. Since I don't often post in General Questions, I'm not sure if that was cool or not. If not, sorry. If okay, then kudos to whomever gets it first.
Stripes (Sgt. Hulka)
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  #21  
Old 04-19-2006, 02:38 PM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas
If the type of threat1 you described is not a crime in Florida, is there no recourse by the victim of repeated threats of this kind? (Hope this isn't getting too far afield of the OP
Sure. Get a restraining order. One that specifically forbids the badguy from contacting the victim and especially to making such comments. Then he can be arrested for violating the restraining order.

Don't worry, lisacurl, I got the joke. "Any 'a yous touches my stuff, I'll kill ya!!"

pulykamell, I find it ironic that in our situation we have defense attorneys saying it IS a crime, and a former District State Attorney saying it's NOT.
.... Shouldn't that be the other way around
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  #22  
Old 04-19-2006, 03:01 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is online now
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I would not consider the OP's statement so much as a threat, but as a warning. Like a "Beware of Dog" sign on my door and a Pit Bull staring at you thru the window. Cross into my space and this dog may tear you up. Dosen't seem to be illegal until the dog is actually chewing on you leg outside of it's contained area.
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  #23  
Old 04-19-2006, 03:25 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
pulykamell, I find it ironic that in our situation we have defense attorneys saying it IS a crime, and a former District State Attorney saying it's NOT.
.... Shouldn't that be the other way around
Yes, it is odd and, like you, they are very experienced lawyers working murder and corruption cases on the state and federal level. I wonder if there is any caselaw on the matter backing up either side.

However, it seems to me to make no sense that pointing a gun at someone does does not automatically constitute a well-founded fear of imminent harm (minus obvious exceptions like, "Here, take a look at the barrel of this gun.") The fear is there, the ability to carry out the threat is there, why would it matter what the guy says? Just because you say "20 minutes later" doesn't make me feel less threatened. I believe a reasonable person, in this situation, would feel immediately threatened, and it's not dependent on what the gun-wielder says.

Does this not sound reasonable? What am I missing here?
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  #24  
Old 04-19-2006, 03:44 PM
drachillix drachillix is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell
However, it seems to me to make no sense that pointing a gun at someone does does not automatically constitute a well-founded fear of imminent harm (minus obvious exceptions like, "Here, take a look at the barrel of this gun.") The fear is there, the ability to carry out the threat is there, why would it matter what the guy says? Just because you say "20 minutes later" doesn't make me feel less threatened. I believe a reasonable person, in this situation, would feel immediately threatened, and it's not dependent on what the gun-wielder says.
From CA Penal Code


240. An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present
ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.


245. (a) (1) Any person who commits an assault upon the person of
another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm or by
any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury shall be
punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four
years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine
not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and
imprisonment.
(2) Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another
with a firearm shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison
for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than
six months and not exceeding one year, or by both a fine not
exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) and imprisonment.


Sounds like it fits here unless the "attempt" is the key. Would shooting and missing be required for this?
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  #25  
Old 04-19-2006, 04:15 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is online now
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Perhaps "unlawful" is the key word. The OP is simply implying that if you commit an assult on me (one assumes unlawful contact) that you will be met with deadly force. How is this different from a DA stating that "If you do the crime, you will do time." It's not a threat, it's a warning. You haven't yet commited a crime so why threaten me? No, it's a warning.

IANAL, but thier should be lots of cases out thier where someone got thier ass kicked after being warned not to do something. I for one would like for our lawyer types to enlighten us on some of these cases.
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  #26  
Old 04-19-2006, 07:11 PM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Si Amigo
It's not a threat, it's a warning.
It's not a threat.

It's not a warning.



It's a PROMISE.




And now for a serious, perhaps-on-topic comment: Do 'fighting words' laws have anything to do with this?
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  #27  
Old 04-20-2006, 07:13 AM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell
The point is, regardless of what is said afterwards, I believe that the act of pointing a gun at a person would cause a reasonable person to feel threatened.
(Emphasis Mine)

I see you're picturing a slightly, yet significantly, different scenario. If one pulls the gun and points it at the victim and then, delivers the statement "I'm going to kill you tomorrow", there's actually two actions there. The first one (point the weapon and saying nothing) is an assault. However, the assault ends at the point he delivers his statement. The statement itslef is not a threat and takes the immediacy of danger away from the situation. The assault/threat--though brief--does occur, however.

But if the statement is delivered before or simultaniously with the display of the firearm, then there's no immediate threat.

Maybe that makes a little more sense. Or maybe not. LOL. It's like the old saying that if you catch someone stealing some oranges, just chop the oranges up into 1,000 pieces and the crime becomes a felony. Either way, we're getting way off topic and ridiculously specif in our scenario

Oh, and the wording in your other post makes me think I was misunderstood. I am not a District Attorney. I was talking about my instructor.
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Old 04-20-2006, 08:05 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
(
But if the statement is delivered before or simultaniously with the display of the firearm, then there's no immediate threat.
I still don't think so. Let's say you say it before: "I will shoot you in 20 minutes," and then you raise a gun at me. What? Am I supposed to take you at your word and not feel threatened? The mere act of pointing a gun at someone is an immediate threat, in my opinion and, I believe, in the opinion of most reasonable individuals. I really don't think any court would buy the argument that it's not.


Quote:
Oh, and the wording in your other post makes me think I was misunderstood. I am not a District Attorney. I was talking about my instructor.
I did misunderstand--I thought you were saying you're a DA.
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  #29  
Old 04-20-2006, 09:49 AM
flight flight is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Would "I'll count to 10, and if you are still here I'll break your neck" count as an illegal threat, what about "If you insult her again, I'll break both your legs."
No. and No.
That is not true, or at least not true in all jurisdictions. It may not be assault, but, as Bippy asked, it apparently does qualify as an illegal threat, specifically "terroristic threats". I had a friend have some encounters with law enforcement over this one in Pennsylvania.
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  #30  
Old 04-20-2006, 10:21 AM
BadBadger BadBadger is offline
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I asked my gf (UK police officer) this question a little while ago. Reassuringly she said "not sure".
I was discussing these kind of things last night with her. In UK law there are Public Order offences. Section 5 is quite a common one to pull and relates to a person causing a disturbance, using language likely to offend etc.
Section 4 is where a threat is made verbally....
My take on the OP is that "Touch me and I'll x", would not constitute a threat. I think there is some grey area regarding the circumstances that the "warning" is made. For instance, what if you are holding the oft quoted machette and saying "Touch me, and I'll cut your head off" whilst gesticulating wildly with the weapon?

Anyways, my gf is going to clarify when she gets to work. (Just bringing the international feel to the debate)
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  #31  
Old 04-20-2006, 11:19 AM
Bippy the Beardless Bippy the Beardless is offline
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There are a whole gamut of conditional threats

Give me money or I'll hit you : Hopefully allways Illegal
Show us your tits or I'll hit you : Hopefully allways Illegal
If I see you again I'll hit you : ?
If you touch my car I'll hit you : ?
If you touch me I'll hit you : Hopefully legal
If you hit me I'll hit you back : Hopefully legal


Are these sorts of things covered by state or federal law? If state law, what is the most comon ruling. Is it legal to threaten "Show us your arse or I'll hit you" in any states, or is "If you hit me, I'll hit you back" Illegal in any states?
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  #32  
Old 04-20-2006, 03:06 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
There are a whole gamut of conditional threats

Give me money or I'll hit you : Hopefully allways Illegal
Show us your tits or I'll hit you : Hopefully allways Illegal
If I see you again I'll hit you : ?
If you touch my car I'll hit you : ?
If you touch me I'll hit you : Hopefully legal
If you hit me I'll hit you back : Hopefully legal


Are these sorts of things covered by state or federal law? If state law, what is the most comon ruling. Is it legal to threaten "Show us your arse or I'll hit you" in any states, or is "If you hit me, I'll hit you back" Illegal in any states?
IANAL, but wouldn't anything in the 'give me something/do something for me, or I'll do something bad to you' category count as extortion?

I'd also think the legal impact of some of those conditional threats would vary with the circumstances. If the 'you toucha my car, I breaka you face' guy is waxing his car at a distant corner of a nearly-empty parking lot, it's easy to deal with the conditional threat by avoiding the condition. But if you and he are in different units of a 3-unit apartment building with a 3-car parking lot out back, and the middle space is his, the effect of his threat may be to deny you the use of your space, which I'd think might give grounds for a civil action at least. Moving might be cheaper, though.
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  #33  
Old 04-20-2006, 05:27 PM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Are these sorts of things covered by state or federal law? If state law, what is the most comon ruling. Is it legal to threaten "Show us your arse or I'll hit you" in any states, or is "If you hit me, I'll hit you back" Illegal in any states?
Yea. Using force, or the threat of force, to obtain money, goods or services, political/judicial action, etc. is extortion. And I wouldn't doubt that there's additional terrorist type laws recently added that this could fall under too, depending on the situation.
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  #34  
Old 04-20-2006, 06:35 PM
barracuda barracuda is offline
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Okay. Suppose I point a gun at you and say, "Look at this nifty new Glock I just bought. I bought some rounds for it, but as you can see, I have not loaded it yet. But tomorrow I will load the gun and I will kill you. How do you like that?"

Well, assuming you agree that the gun is not loaded, it is not a threat to you at this time. The threat to kill you tomorrow really has nothing to do with the pointing at you of the gun right now.

In law school, back in the sixties, we had a case where a man aggressively grasped his sword (but did not draw it from its scabbard) and said to the intented victim, "If it were not assizes time, I would kill you." The assizes were a court which met from time to time in England. The court ruled this as not an assault since the threatener had qualified his intentions and the victim had reason to know he was not in imminent peril.

This is the sort of thing that makes law school worth while.
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  #35  
Old 04-20-2006, 09:09 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barracuda
Okay.

In law school, back in the sixties, we had a case where a man aggressively grasped his sword (but did not draw it from its scabbard) and said to the intented victim, "If it were not assizes time, I would kill you." The assizes were a court which met from time to time in England. The court ruled this as not an assault since the threatener had qualified his intentions and the victim had reason to know he was not in imminent peril.

This is the sort of thing that makes law school worth while.
This is the sort of thing that keeps Judge Judy going. Somebody warned me not to do something and I did it and got my ass kicked I had better sue them. Imminent peril! Why didn't you at least try to avoid imminent peril? It's the "I'm stupid" defense!
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  #36  
Old 04-20-2006, 09:24 PM
Stentor 2.5 Stentor 2.5 is offline
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Out of curiosity, is Lying in Wait an offense in modern law? And if so, could stating intent and means to kill someone (i.e. I'm going to shoot you with this gun in 20 minutes) be considered Lying in Wait?
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  #37  
Old 04-21-2006, 12:52 AM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Si Amigo (emphasis mine)
This is the sort of thing that keeps Judge Judy going. Somebody warned me not to do something and I did it and got my ass kicked I had better sue them. Imminent peril! Why didn't you at least try to avoid imminent peril? It's the "I'm stupid" defense!
It's a knight's duty to sample as much peril as he can!
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  #38  
Old 04-21-2006, 11:07 AM
mazinger_z mazinger_z is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stentor 2.5
Out of curiosity, is Lying in Wait an offense in modern law? And if so, could stating intent and means to kill someone (i.e. I'm going to shoot you with this gun in 20 minutes) be considered Lying in Wait?
I was going to provide some clarification, but it looks like this is getting all unruly. I'll just answer this question:

Lying in wait is what is known to lawyers as premeditation. This is a prima facie case to establish intent to murder, or the mens rea element for murder. The murder charge in this scenario will most likely be murder in the first degree (or however the local jurisdiction names their highest murder charge).
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Old 04-21-2006, 11:11 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barracuda
In law school, back in the sixties, we had a case where a man aggressively grasped his sword (but did not draw it from its scabbard) and said to the intented victim, "If it were not assizes time, I would kill you." The assizes were a court which met from time to time in England. The court ruled this as not an assault since the threatener had qualified his intentions and the victim had reason to know he was not in imminent peril.
I would agree with this. However, had he actually drawn his sword and brandished it, or held the blade against his intended victim's neck (which to me is analogous to pointed a loaded gun at someone), I bet dollars to donuts the ruling would have been different.
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