Criminal threatening became a hot topic of discussion in NH back in 2010 and 2011 when NH resident Ward Bird waved a gun at an accidental trespasser. Due to this case, it has caused a lot more light to be shed on New Hampshire’s criminal threatening laws, and what constitutes felony criminal threatening and what doesn’t.
What is Criminal Threatening?
Criminal threatening is a term given to anyone who makes a verbal or physical allusion to causing someone immediate harm. Criminal threatening can be just words, just a physical action, or both put together.
Criminal Threatening with Physical Conduct
I. A person is guilty of criminal threatening when:
(a) By physical conduct, the person purposely places or attempts to place another in fear of imminent bodily injury or physical contact; or
A physical act of criminal threatening in NH can be showing a knife, a firearm, or a weapon of any kind that indicates that a person may be in the way of serious bodily injury. For example, in Ward Bird’s case, when an individual parked in front of his house (without any intent to cause harm to Ward Bird), he started waving a gun at the person while yelling obscenities. Since Ward Bird physically threatened the person with a gun, this is considered a physical conduct form of criminal threatening. The same could be said if someone pulls out a knife, bat, or other weapon to “back up” their words while threatening another person.
Criminal Threatening with Object Placement or Graffiti
(b) The person places any object or graffiti on the property of another with a purpose to coerce or terrorize any person; or
It is possible to be charged with criminal threatening in New Hampshire if a person places or moves any object or vandalizes property to threaten another person. An example of this might be if someone writes, paints, or otherwise leaves a statement that makes another person feel they have been threatened. This could be a note, a hateful remark written in chalk, paint, or anything else (i.e. “Die”, “Kill yourself”, etc). Criminal threatening with placement of an object could be, for example, someone stabbing the front welcome mat on someone’s front door, leaving a noose for someone to find, or moving a vehicle in a threatening manner.
Criminal Threatening towards Other Personal Property
(c) The person threatens to commit any crime against the property of another with a purpose to coerce or terrorize any person; or
A statement like “Move your car or I’ll smash it!” can be considered criminal threatening. Since the person is threatening to smash the car if it is not moved, they are suggesting a crime against the other person to terrorize them into moving their car. Even a statement like “Trim your tree or I’ll cut it down” can also be considered criminal threatening if the tree is fully on your property.
Criminal Threatening Verbally
(d) The person threatens to commit any crime against the person of another with a purpose to terrorize any person; or
“If you don’t move, I’ll punch you” is a statement of criminal threatening. It is intended to get a person to move, or else they will come to physical violence and harm through a punch. Any threat of physical violence or another crime to another person with the intent to scare them is considered criminal threatening in NH.
Criminal Threatening with Substances or Biological Chemicals
(e) The person threatens to commit any crime of violence, or threatens the delivery or use of a biological or chemical substance, with a purpose to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, facility of public transportation or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of causing such fear, terror or inconvenience; or
(f) The person delivers, threatens to deliver, or causes the delivery of any substance the actor knows could be perceived as a biological or chemical substance, to another person with the purpose of causing fear or terror, or in reckless disregard of causing such fear or terror.
Criminal threatening can also be a charge if someone threatens to cause harm via a biological or chemical substance, such as threatening to mail anthrax, threatening to infect someone with an illness, threatening a bombing or delivery of a bomb, or anything else that intends to terrorize people and bring them to a panic.
When does Criminal Threatening Become Felonious?
Typically criminal threatening in NH is a misdemeanor offense, however it has the potential to turn into felony criminal threatening if a deadly weapon, firearm, explosive device, or any other deadly device or weapon is used or displayed. In the case of Ward Bird, because he waved a firearm, his criminal threatening case became felonious.
What about Self-Defense?
New Hampshire has a special provision that states:
IV. A person who responds to a threat which would be considered by a reasonable person as likely to cause serious bodily injury or death to the person or to another by displaying a firearm or other means of self-defense with the intent to warn away the person making the threat shall not have committed a criminal act under this section.
Therefor if you are responding to another person who is threatening to do you harm with intent to get them to leave or cease, then your act would not be considered criminal threatening.
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