Criminal Threat in Kansas – Can Your Conviction Be Overturned?

If you were convicted of the criminal threat statute in Kansas, you may have a legal remedy to get your conviction overturned.

In October 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that part of the criminal threat statute is unconstitutional because it infringes on speech protected under the First Amendment. Prior to the Court’s October 2019 decision, a person could be convicted of criminal threat by:

  1. threatening to commit violence communicated with the intent to place another in fear,
  2. threatening to commit violence in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such fear.

The Court ruled that the latter, making a threat in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such fear, is unconstitutional because the language of that portion of the statute is too broad. It criminalizes protected speech under the First Amendment. A person may use threatening language without intending to cause another fear. In its opinion, the Court cited an example of a person utilizing political hyperbole at a public rally.

However, communicating a threat with the intent to place another in fear is still a criminal offense in the state of Kansas. This is because there are certain types of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment. One type of speech that is not protected is a “true threat.” In State v. Boettger and State v. Johnson, the Court defined a true threat as “statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.” While the speaker may not intend to actually commit the act of violence, the speaker must intend to place the recipient in fear of violence.

Whether a criminal threat conviction can be overturned may depend on a variety of factors, such as how the State charged the crime, the factual basis for the crime, and the language of the plea agreement or jury verdict.

Questions? Schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys at (785) 434-3005.

Disclaimer: This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information contained in this article is not legal advice. If you have questions about a legal matter, you should consult with an attorney.