Death threat

Death threat

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Encyclopedia
A death threat is a threat of death, often made anonymously, by one person or a group of people to kill another person or groups of people. These threats are usually designed to intimidate victims in order to manipulate their behavior, thus a death threat is a form of coercion
Coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

. For example, a death threat could be used to dissuade a public figure from pursuing a criminal investigation or an advocacy campaign.

In many jurisdictions, death threats are a criminal offense. Death threats are often covered by coercion statutes. For instance, the coercion statute in Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 says:

Methods


A death threat can be communicated via a wide range of mediums, among these letters, newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 publications, telephone call
Telephone call
A telephone call is a connection over a telephone network between the calling party and the called party.-Information transmission:A telephone call may carry ordinary voice transmission using a telephone, data transmission when the calling party and called party are using modems, or facsimile...

s, internet blogs
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

, and e-mail
E-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

. If the threat is made against a political figure, it can also be considered treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

. If a threat is against a non-living location that frequently contains living individuals (e.g. a building) it could be a terrorist threat
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

. Sometimes death threats are part of a wider campaign of abuse targeting a person or a group of people (see terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, mass murder
Mass murder
Mass murder is the act of murdering a large number of people , typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time. According to the FBI, mass murder is defined as four or more murders occurring during a particular event with no cooling-off period between the murders...

).

Here is an example of an actual death threat, from the book Wordcrime by John Olsson. This is a genuine example from a criminal case, provided by the Forensic Linguistics Institute, which analyzes all kinds of text, including traditional letter
Letter
A letter is a written message from one party to another. The role of letters in communication has changed significantly since the nineteenth century...

s, ransom
Ransom
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

 demands, hate mail
Hate mail
Hate mail is a form of harassment, usually consisting of invective and potentially intimidating or threatening comments towards the recipient...

, various texts via mobile phone; SMS device
Text messaging
Text messaging, or texting, refers to the exchange of brief written text messages between fixed-line phone or mobile phone and fixed or portable devices over a network...

, etc., for authorship:

Death threats against a head of state


In some monarchies
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 and republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

s, both democratic and authoritarian, threatening to kill the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and/or head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 (such as the sovereign, president, or prime minister) is considered a crime for which punishments vary. US law provides for up to 5 years in prison for threatening the President of the United States
Threatening the President of the United States
Threatening the President of the United States is a class D felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871. It consists of knowingly and willfully mailing or otherwise making "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States"...

. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, under the Treason Felony Act 1848
Treason Felony Act 1848
The Treason Felony Act 1848 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act is still in force. It is a law which protects HM the Queen and the Crown....

, it is illegal to attempt to kill or deprive the monarch
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 of her throne; this offense was originally punished with penal transportation
Penal transportation
Transportation or penal transportation is the deporting of convicted criminals to a penal colony. Examples include transportation by France to Devil's Island and by the UK to its colonies in the Americas, from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s, and then to Australia between...

 and then was changed to the death penalty and currently the penalty is life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

.

Osman warning, letter or notice


These are warnings of death threat or high risk of murder that are issued by British police or legal authorities to the expected victim. They are used when there is intelligence of the threat, but there is not enough evidence to justify the police arresting the expected murderer.

The warnings are named after a high-profile case, Osman v United Kingdom
Osman v United Kingdom
Osman v United Kingdom [1998] is a leading case before the European Court of Human Rights on human rights law in the United Kingdom. Judgment was given on 28 October 1998.-Facts:...

, of police failing to protect individuals despite some warning signs pointing at impending aggression. The murderer in this case said to the police: "Why didn't you stop me before I did it, I gave you all the warning signs?" The police had known that the murderer had posed a threat to several people, and had carried out criminal acts against some of them, but the police had not informed those at risk of the seriousness of the threat. In September 1989 the family commenced a civil action in negligence against the police. This was dismissed by the High Court
High Court of Justice
The High Court of Justice is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...

 and then upheld on appeal in 1992. Further action was taken by the family in the European Commission of Human Rights
European Commission of Human Rights
European Commission of Human Rights was a special tribunal.From 1954 to the entry into force of Protocol 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, individuals did not have direct access to the European Court of Human Rights; they had to apply to the Commission, which if it found the case to be...

 beginning in November 1993 with a final report being issued in 1997.

See also

  • Assassination
    Assassination
    To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

  • Bomb threat
    Bomb threat
    A bomb threat is generally defined as a threat, usually verbal or written, to detonate an explosive or incendiary device to cause property damage, death, or injuries, whether or not such a device actually exists...

  • Coercion
    Coercion
    Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

  • Extortion
    Extortion
    Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

  • Assault
    Assault
    In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

  • Witness intimidation
    Witness intimidation
    Witness intimidation involves witnesses crucial to court proceedings being threatened in order to pressure or extort them not to testify. The refusal of key witnesses to testify commonly renders a case with inadequate physical evidence void in a court of law...

  • United States Federal Witness Protection Program
    United States Federal Witness Protection Program
    The United States Federal Witness Protection Program is a witness protection program administered by the United States Department of Justice and operated by the United States Marshals Service that is designed to protect threatened witnesses before, during, and after a trial.A few states, including...

  • United States Marshals Service
    United States Marshals Service
    The United States Marshals Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice . The office of U.S. Marshal is the oldest federal law enforcement office in the United States; it was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789...

  • Terrorism
    Terrorism
    Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

  • Hostage
    Hostage
    A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

  • Interrogation
    Interrogation
    Interrogation is interviewing as commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information. Subjects of interrogation are often the suspects, victims, or witnesses of a crime...

  • Kidnapping
    Kidnapping
    In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

  • Torture
    Torture
    Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

  • Secret Service
    Secret service
    A secret service describes a government agency, or the activities of a government agency, concerned with the gathering of intelligence data. The tasks and powers of a secret service can vary greatly from one country to another. For instance, a country may establish a secret service which has some...

  • Bulletproof vest
    Bulletproof vest
    A ballistic vest, bulletproof vest or bullet-resistant vest is an item of personal armor that helps absorb the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the torso...

  • Armour
    Armour
    Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

  • Undercover
    Undercover
    Being undercover is disguising one's own identity or using an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn secret information or to gain the trust of targeted individuals in order to gain information or evidence...

  • Contract killing
    Contract killing
    Contract killing is a form of murder, in which one party hires another party to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for consideration, monetary, or otherwise. The hiring party may...

  • Informant
    Informant
    An informant is a person who provides privileged information about a person or organization to an agency. The term is usually used within the law enforcement world, where they are officially known as confidential or criminal informants , and can often refer pejoratively to the supply of information...

  • Stalking
    Stalking
    Stalking is a term commonly used to refer to unwanted and obsessive attention by an individual or group to another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person and/or monitoring them via the internet...


External links