ARS § 13-1202 is the Arizona statute defining threatening or intimidating crime. You commit this offense if you either threaten to physically injure someone, threaten to cause a serious public inconvenience (such as the evacuation of a building), or threaten to injure another person to promote a street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise. A violation of this law can result in a felony charge punishable by up to seven years in state prison.
The language of ARS 13-1202 states that:
A person commits threatening or intimidating if the person threatens or intimidates by word or conduct:
- To cause physical injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another; or
- To cause…serious public inconvenience including, but not limited to, evacuation of a building, place of assembly or transportation facility; or
- To cause physical injury to another person or damage to the property of another in order to promote, further or assist in…a criminal street gang, a criminal syndicate or a racketeering enterprise.
- threatening to punch someone in the face if they do not get out of their car.
- threatening to blow up a courthouse when the act results in the evacuation of the building.
- intimidating someone in order for him to become a gang member.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to contest intimidating charges under this criminal code section. A few common ones include showing that the defendant:
- did not voice or cause a true threat,
- acted in self-defense, and/or
- exercised his/her right to free speech.
A violation of ARS 13-1202 whereby the defendant threatens to hurt someone or cause property damage, or threatens to cause a public inconvenience is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The offenses are punishable by up to six months in jail.
All other violations of the threatening and intimidating statute are Class 3 felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “threatening or intimidating”?
People in Arizona are guilty under this statute if they threaten or intimidate by word or conduct:
- to cause physical force or injury to someone or their property,i
- to cause, or in reckless disregard to causing, serious public inconvenience,ii or
- to cause physical injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another to promote, further, or assist in a criminal street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise.iii
Note that there is no requirement under this statute that the alleged victim feel threatened. The focus is on whether the defendant communicated genuine threats. If a reasonable person would be threatened by words or conduct, then the court will usually find a threat.iv
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1202 charges?
Defendants have the right to challenge any alleged criminal conduct under this statute with a legal defense. Three common defenses include showing that the defendant:
- did not intimidate or make a threat.
- acted in self-defense.
- exercised his/her right to free speech.
2.1 No true threat
People are only guilty of a crime under this law if they, in fact, make a true or genuine threat. A defense, then, is for a defendant to show that his/her words or conduct were not actually threatening or intimidating.
Arizona’s self-defense law, ARS 13-404, says that people are justified in threatening physical force against others when acting in self-defense of the other person’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she was making threats out of self-defense.
2.3 Free speech
Accused persons can always attempt to avoid guilt under this law by saying any alleged threat or intimidation was protected by his/her First Amendment right to free speech. However, courts have stated that the law can criminalize “fighting words,” or words that are likely to provoke a violent reaction in an ordinary person.
3. What are the penalties?
Violations of this stature are treated as serious offenses in Arizona.
Threats or intimidations associated with promoting or furthering a street gang, a criminal syndicate, or a racketeering enterprise are charged as Class 3 felonies. The crimes are punishable by up to seven years in state prison.
Violations of the law where a defendant threatens to hurt someone or their property or threatens to cause a public inconvenience are Class 1 misdemeanors.vi
Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to threatening or intimidating. These are:
4.1 Assault – ARS 13-1203
Per ARS 13-1203, people commit the crime of assault when they:
- intentionally or recklessly cause physical injury to someone,
- intentionally place another person in fear of physical injury, or
- knowingly touch someone with the intent to injure or provoke them.
Unlike with ARS 13-1202, this statute requires that a defendant actually touch a “victim” or put that person in fear.
4.2 Harassment – ARS 13-2921
ARS 13-2921 is the Arizona statute that makes it an offense for people to commit certain acts with the intent to harass another person. Some of these acts include:
- contact or communicate someone in a harassing manner.
- follow a person in a public place with no legitimate person, and
- repeatedly commit an act that harasses another person.
Unlike with threatening or intimidating, people are only guilty under this law if they act with a specific intent to harass another person.
4.3 Stalking – ARS 13-2923
ARS 13-2923 is the Arizona statute that says a person commits the offense of stalking if he/she engages in conduct that results in the “victim” suffering emotional distress or fear of injury or property damage.
Unlike with ARS 13-1202, a violation of this statute is always a felony offense.
- See, for example, In re Kyle M, 200 Ariz. 447 (2001).
- See, for example, In re Appeal in Navajo County Juvenile Delinquency Action No. 89-J-099, 164 Ariz. 389.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1202. As to threats to promote or further a street gang, see State v. Harm, 236 Ariz. 402 (2015).
- In re Ryan A, 202 Ariz. 19 (2002).
- ARS 13-1202 Subsection C.
- ARS 13-1202B.