Criminal law is a complicated topic that takes an expert to understand. Even things like threats can carry significant penalties if you are prosecuted, and it’s very important to make sure that you speak with a criminal lawyer to explore your options if you’re ever charged with a crime.

However, it can be hard to know when threats are actually an offence, and when they can be seen as a joke. I mean, we’ve all had thoughts along the lines of “I’d love to kill that person,” right?

Unfortunately, the law in Australia is quite clear, which means that you need to be careful about what you say and do. Ultimately, threats to kill can result in significant penalties, even if they aren’t meant seriously.

How Is A Threat To Kill Defined As An Offence?

Now, it’s important to note that the laws surrounding intimidating threats vary from state to state within Australia, but most are quite similar. The NSW law is quite simple and easy to understand, so I’m going to use it here as an example.

In New South Wales, the Crimes Act 1900 contains laws which govern offences including threats to kill. It basically outlines two situations which can lead to prosecution:

“A person who intentionally or recklessly, and knowing its contents, sends or delivers, or directly or indirectly causes to be received, any document threatening to kill or inflict bodily harm on any person is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.”
“It is immaterial for the purposes of an offence under this section whether or not a document sent or delivered is actually received, and whether or not the threat contained in a document sent, delivered or received is actually communicated to the person concerned or to the recipient or intended recipient of the document (as relevant in the circumstances).”
Now, this wording can be quite loosely interpreted. And actually, historical cases show that threats to kill are usually only seen as an offence if there’s a reasonable likelihood that the person who made the thread actually intended to go through with it.

On the other hand, threats which were made with little to no chance of being fulfilled aren’t usually seen as an offence.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With Making Threats To Kill?

Ultimately, a threat to kill is seen as a very serious offence. If you’re actually considering going through with your threat, then you could be charged and prosecuted under your state’s law. In NSW, such a prosecution could result in up to 10 years imprisonment, but the penalties do vary between states.

If you are charged or feel that you could be charged with an offence like this, then I’d recommend getting in touch with a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges of this magnitude need to be taken seriously.

An experienced lawyer will be able to help you build a strong case against the prosecution, maximising the chance of you getting off without a penalty. In the worst case scenario, a decent lawyer will be able to help you minimize the penalty that is handed down.