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Threatening to Commit a Crime in Massachusetts

depressed-girl-1429979.jpgUnder Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 275, Section 4, it is a crime to threaten to commit a crime against someone else. If the defendant is convicted, he can be punished by a fine of $100 or less, or by imprisonment for six months or less. In many cases, there are additional charges brought against someone prosecuted for threatening to commit a crime, such as assault and battery.

In Commonwealth v. Montoya, the court considered a case in which the defendant was convicted of assault, battery, and threatening to commit a crime. The crimes arose from a turbulent romantic relationship between the defendant and the victim. The victim lived with the defendant, their four-year-old son, and her daughter from an earlier relationship. The defendant accused the victim of infidelity, and this developed into a physical confrontation.

The victim ran from the apartment with the children and went to her aunt’s, where she called 911 to report domestic violence. She asked the police to hurry because the defendant was crazy and was using her car to chase her around the neighborhood. A police officer responded to the call and came to the victim’s apartment. The officer observed blood on the victim’s ear, scratches, and a bruise. The apartment was in disarray.

Later, charges were brought against the defendant. On the stand, the victim claimed she couldn’t remember what had happened and also said it didn’t happen and that her injuries observed by the police were caused by her softball game. She was expecting another child with the defendant.

In Massachusetts, threatening a crime is a crime. The prosecution will have to prove that an intention to commit a crime against someone else was expressed and that the defendant had the ability to actually commit the crime, justifying the apprehension on the victim’s part. The defendant was convicted and appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to show an expressed threat. The appellate court disagreed, noting there’s no requirement that the expression of intent must be said in words. In this case, the defendant’s actions in chasing the victim and acting crazy showed an intent to hurt her.

The court agreed, however, with the defendant’s argument. The Commonwealth had specified that the underlying crime described or threatened was to kill the victim. Therefore, the Commonwealth needed to prove a threat to kill, not just to commit a crime.

The prosecutor specifically argued in his opening statement that the defendant had threatened to kill the victim. Even though the prosecutor didn’t state the same thing in his closing argument, and the judge didn’t describe the threat as one to kill when instructing the jury, the case was presented to the jury on the grounds that the defendant threatened to kill the victim. Even the verdict slip stated that the underlying crime was to kill. This was the slip that jurors marked when they checked “guilty.”

The court determined that the jury found the defendant guilty of threatening to kill the victim. The evidence was not insufficient to prove a threat, but it was insufficient to find the defendant guilty of threatening to kill the victim. Since there was not enough evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the underlying crime threatened was to kill the victim, the conviction was reversed. The conviction on assault and battery was affirmed, however.

If you are charged in Massachusetts with assault, battery, or threatening to commit a crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014